You may remember to wear your sunglasses during the summer, but did you know that you should be wearing those sunglasses during the winter too? While you may think that the sun is weaker in winter, it is not. Even though the sun is further from Earth in the winter months, some winter weather conditions can actually worsen the effects of UV rays. The sun's reflection off of ice or fresh snow can be harmful to your eyes. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can contribute to long term damage to your eyes such as snow blindness, macular degeneration, and even cataracts. The skin around your eyes is particularly susceptible to certain skin cancers so it is important for you to have winter eye protection.
Did you know that when you are at higher altitudes, the thinner air allows for more passage of light? So when you are up in the mountains skiing, make sure that you have winter eye protection. UV radiation goes up 3% for every 400 meters (about 1,312 feet) of altitude. Also, around 80% of UV light is reflected by snow and from clouds on overcast days. Always protect your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses or goggles that are recommended by an eye doctor.
If you wear contact lenses, you have more options because you don’t have to worry about prescription lenses in your protective eyewear. Another added benefit is that contact lenses can incorporate UV-blocking optical materials that can offer added protection because they can filter out UV rays that stray past hats and sunglasses. CooperVision’s Avaira contact lenses feature a silicone hydrogel material with UV blocking.
If you would like more information about winter eye protection, make sure to ask your eye doctor. For more general information about winter eye protection, The Vision Council has a helpful article on Sunglasses for Snow Sports.