The not-so glaringly obvious risks of winter.
Winter eye protection is just as important as it is in the summer.
In the gloominess of winter, many of us put away our sunglasses until the longer, sunnier days of summer come back. The overcast skies and lack of sunshine fool us into thinking that our eyes do not need to be shielded from invisible UV rays. But eye protection in winter is very important, sometimes even more so than in summer.
UV (or ultraviolet) rays don’t take a break in the winter. In fact, the lower angle of winter sun in relation to the eyes means UV exposure can be even higher in winter mornings and afternoons. Lower sun angles and UV exposure on unprotected eyes increase the risk of cataracts, ocular melanoma, macular degeneration and and skin cancers around the eyelid.
People relax their guard in winter. Many assume the ambient temperature is equivalent to UV levels and messages for UV protection, such as wearing sunglasses and hats, are not so visible as they are over summer. But New Zealand has relatively high UV levels and we all need to keep our eyes safe by wearing sunglasses – all year round.
Hitting the slopes?
Snow, ice and reflective wet roads cause the sun’s UV rays to reach your eyes from ground level as well as from above. In fact, winter snow reflects almost 80 percent of UV radiation, whereas the percentage of UV radiation reflected by a shimmering sandy beach is between 10 and 20% and green surroundings only reflect about 6% of UV light. Although you may remember to wear sunglasses when you’re at the beach, your risk of UV exposure is quadrupled when you’re outside in snowy, glary weather.
Your eyes are sensitive
Your eyes can become sunburned if exposed to harmful rays for prolonged periods of time, even when the temperature is low and it’s overcast. The symptoms of sunburn in your eyes (or photokeratitis) include:
- Watery Eyes
- Seeing halos
- Eyelid twitching
- Temporary vision loss or snow blindness (in rare cases)
The vision-saving role of sunglasses
Do you take the necessary precautions during winter? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t do so consistently. You should always wear UV protective eyewear when outside – all year round.
When shopping for sunglasses, or googles, be sure to choose a pair with a high eye protection factor (EPF). Under the Australian and New Zealand Sunglass Standards, sunglasses with a value of 3 and 4 absorb almost all UV radiation. You should also always look for tints that provide 100% UVA/UVB protection. The best place to start looking for a quality pair of sunglasses is with your optometrist or eye doctor.
Besides the risk of UV exposure, cold winds and bright glare are two more winter woes to be weary of.
Good quality tinted sunglasses lenses protect your eyes from UV rays, but they do not eliminate glare. Glare washes out colours, obscures details and causes eye strain. Polarised lenses absorb glare and prevent fatigue by allowing your eyes to relax – no more squinting, watering eyes and headaches. The glare-blocking microscopic layer in polarised sunglasses improves your vision by enhancing clarity and contrast and reducing eye strain. Polarised lenses make driving on wet, wintery roads safer.
At John O’Connor Optometrists we can help you with eye protection in winter: reduce wind, glare and ultraviolet radiation exposure. Our Bill Bass polarised sunglasses start from $189.
If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, we can customise a pair of sunglasses to suit your eyes. Prescription polarised sunglasses using HOYA’s NuPolar lenses provide the ultimate glare protection. Our tinted polarised prescription sunglasses start from $488.
Protect your eyes over winter
Specialty eyewear exists for all winter sports and activities. Talk to us if you have any questions about UV exposure or any specialty eyewear you need to live an active, safe winter lifestyle!
With an estimated 3 million people globally going blind every year due to prolonged UV exposure, it is important that everyone takes steps to look after their eyes over winter and summer.
If you’d like to protect your eyes in winter give us a call and we’ll find the polarised lenses that are right for you.