As the thermometer continues to drop, we take precaution to make sure our body is outfitted with all the necessary winter accessories and gear: wool socks, check! boots, check! gloves, check! scarf, check! hat, check! down jacket, check!
Anything missing from that list? Yup. Sunglasses!
While many of us are ensuring not an inch of bare skin is exposed to the harsh conditions winter can bring, we unfortunately tend to forget about protecting our eyes. Individuals typically don’t associate winter with a need for sunglasses, but with cold temperatures and snow there also comes hazardous conditions for your eyes.
Excessive exposure to the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays without proper eye protection can put you at risk for a painful condition known as photokeratitis, which is akin to sunburn of the cornea and conjunctiva. The risk for photokeratitis is elevated in the winter months when fresh snow has the potential to reflect 80% of UV radiation. In comparison, a dry beach will reflect roughly 15% of UV rays.
In addition to photokeratitis, overexposure to UV rays has been found to cause cataracts and macular degeneration, two of the most common eye health issues experienced by older adults. Fortunately, these conditions can be avoided with proper eyewear and limited exposure to excessive UV rays.
Not only will sunglasses offer protection from the powerful winter sun, but also from the cold, dry air that can irritate eyes, especially for those that wear contact lenses. The bitter winter weather has the potential to dry eyes, making them itchy and irritated. While eye drops can help to alleviate dry eyes, sunglasses will help to eliminate the threat.
If you find yourself spending time outdoors this winter, make sure to put on a pair of sunglasses and keep your eyes protected!