Protecting our eyes in the winter is essential for preventing short and long term problems.
Eye dryness is very common, especially on cold brisk days. Finding comfort near a warm toasty heater or fireplace can dry the eye surface too. Maintain good eyelid hygiene, stay hydrated and use artificial tears to control mild dry eye symptoms.
Sunglasses are important for preventing keratitis (a burn on the cornea surface) and aging effects such as cataracts, pinguecula and macular degeneration. Snow-blindness or keratitis is a painful corneal condition that can occur when the outermost layers of the cornea are damaged (like a sunburn). Damage can occur in as little as an hour of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the risk is intensified at higher altitude.
Damage to the eye doesn’t stop on the surface. Cumulative ultraviolet exposure damages the lens of the eye causing cataract formation. Research has also found that UV radiation contributes to macular degeneration.
Wearing good UV blocking sunglasses protects all layers of the eye. The UV radiation reflected off of water and snow is dangerous too.
Don’t hang-up your sunglasses because it is winter, year-round UV protection is a proactive way to promote good eye health and clear vision for adults and children.
If the eyes are exposed to excessive amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation over a short period of time, “sunburn” called photokeratitis can occur on the surface of the eye (the cornea). This condition may be painful and includes symptoms such as red eyes, a foreign-body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, blurry vision, excessive tearing and extreme sensitivity to light. Photokeratitis is also called snowblindness because it occurs often when enjoying winter sports where the light is reflected from the snow. It is usually temporary and rarely causes permanent damage, but can take days to heal.
Ongoing exposure to UV radiation, however, can cause serious harm to the eyes and age them prematurely. Research has shown that exposure to small amounts of UV radiation over time increases the chance of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and eye cancer.
Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, summer or winter protect your eyes from the sun’s rays in order to decrease the risk of eye diseases and disorders.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to wear sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses with UV protection, apply sunscreen and wear a hat to protect the eyes and tissues around them.
And don’t forget your children, their eyes are more susceptible to damage from UV.
A good way to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest UV protection is by scheduling yearly comprehensive eye exams.