Winter is coming.
Days are getting shorter. Temperatures are falling.
Unlike daylight and temperatures, though, UV rays go strong all winter long.
Wintertime brings about all sorts of seasonal activities, such as skiing and snowboarding, ice skating and sledding, and yes, even shoveling snow.
Just like summer, protect your eyes doing any outdoor this winter by remembering to wear sunglasses.
What Are UV Rays?
Wearing sunglasses helps protect against UV rays.
Three types of ultraviolet rays are beamed from the sun. While UVC rays are absorbed by our atmosphere, both UVA and UVB rays make it to Earth and can cause damage to our vision. From late winter through early spring, the highest exposure of UV rays is at midday here in the northern hemisphere. UV rays are present regardless of whether conditions are bright and sunny or dark and dreary.
UV rays are also reflective. Those reflections are just as damaging as direct exposure. Water reflects 100 percent of UV rays, while water reflects 85 percent, concrete and dry sand reflect 25 percent, and grass reflects three percent. Winter sports enthusiasts, in particular, should know that UV radiation intensity increases by 16 percent every for 1,000 meters above sea level.
How Do UV Rays Affect Vision?
Children are at the most risk for vision problems as a result of UV exposure.
That’s because the lenses in their eyes don’t filter UV rays as easily as the lenses in adult eyes. In fact, the American Optometric Association says 80 percent of a person’s lifetime UV exposure occurs prior to the age of 20.
Damage to the eyes from ultraviolet exposure has both short-term and long-term effects.
In the near term, people can experience photokeratitis, which is like a sunburn of the eye. “Symptoms of photokeratitis include red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing,” writes the AOA in a press release. These effects are usually on temporary. Another temporary issue is snow blindness. Snow blindness occurs at high elevations, and results in blurred vision, swelling, and watery eyes.
Over a longer period, people with prolonged exposure to UV rays may face the “risk of cataracts, pterygium, age-related macular degeneration, and even cancer.”
How Do I Protect Against UV Rays During The Winter?
Nearly half of respondents to a 2015 survey said they didn’t wear sunglasses in the winter, and almost two-thirds of adults aren’t even aware of the link between UV exposure and eye health issues. The Vision Council also found that more than one-third of parents said their children don’t wear shades regularly.
Find sunglasses that feature a label indicating UV protection because not all sunglasses include this technology. Photochromic lenses help block UV rays, and they tint to help make lighting transitions easier on your eyes. Polarized sunglasses also help to reduce glare, which, as mentioned earlier, is just as effective as direct exposure.
The AOA also recommends purchasing frames that fit close to the face to prevent UV exposure from all sides, and using sunglasses in addition to UV-resistant contact lenses.
Avoiding those peak midday hours is also crucial.
As winter settles in, be sure to protect your vision during any outdoor activity by wearing sunglasses. Also, contact your local Bard Optical to learn what we offer to help protect your eyes. Additionally, If you think you may be experiencing some damage to your eyes from UV rays, contact us to schedule an appointment.