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Winter 2016 > Protecting Your Eyes in Winter

Protecting Your Eyes in Winter

As the winter season approaches, many people begin to gear up for the holidays. It is a time filled with family vacations consisting of hot cocoa by the fireside by night, and snowball fights by day. Throughout this time when Jack Frost casts his wintry spell, it’s tough to imagine that eyes could possibly be negatively affected. During the summer months, it is common knowledge to wear sunglasses and hats to protect eyes and skin. However, The New York Times has revealed that, “a day in the snow can be harder on your eyes than a day at the beach.” According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) water reflects less than 10% of the sun’s UV rays while snow actually double’s a person exposure to this harmful light. It’s the perfect reflector. Believe it or not, eyes are more susceptible than skin to damage from the sun. While you should never forgo the sunblock to protect fragile skin, it’s equally as important to wear the right shades in the winter.

Sunglasses are only as good as their UV protection rating. As stated by the American Cancer Society, the sun exudes three different types of ultraviolet rays which put people at risk. The first type is UVC. While this ray contains more energy than the other two, it is typically unable to make it through Earth’s atmosphere. The other two types (UVA and UVB) are the major offenders which cause sunburn, aging, and skin cancer. If the glasses do not block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays, they aren’t protecting you much at all. Being exposed to an excessive amount of UV light can not only cause cataracts, but can also destroy the retina. Always be aware that just because the lenses are polarized or dark colored, that does not mean they take the place of a proper UV protection rating. While these lenses help to reduce glare, UV rays are invisible to the human eye. If the glasses do not have the proper protection rating in place, the color of the lenses mean nothing.

Once you have chosen sunglasses that properly block UVA and UVB rays, make sure that those glasses fit your face correctly. A pair of loose glasses will still allow the rays to affect your eyes and skin. In WebMD’s article, “How to Pick Good Sunglasses,” Fraser Horn, OD, suggests finding sunglasses that do not touch the eyelashes, but do not allow the frames to extend too far out. Choose something that lines up with your brow, and fits snugly around the eyes to also help block sand, dirt and allergens.

Should you decide to hit the slopes this winter, keep in mind that higher altitudes mean thin air and less filtration of the harmful UV rays. Ice, snow, dirt particles and even bits and pieces of twigs could wind up affecting your vision. Don’t forget to pick up a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. REI states that “virtually all goggles sold today offer 100% UV protection from all 3 types of [UV rays].” Be sure to try on your goggles with your helmet to guarantee a secure and pleasant fit. Consider a pair with adjustable straps, ventilation to prevent fogging, and extra padding to minimize pinching on your face.
These simple and basic tips on finding a good pair of sunglasses or goggles will help keep your eyes safe and protect your vision. Winter is a beautiful season enchanting the earth with its presence. Don’t allow your eyes to fall victim to the siren song of snow without properly guarding them!
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