Protect your eyes from the winter sun

Protect your eyes from winter sun.
Courtesy of Nike Vision
Courtesy of Nike Vision

Just because it isn’t summer doesn’t mean you should put away those sunglasses.

“Most people think sunglasses are just for the bright summer sun, but damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays are present year-round,” says Dr. Jenna Lewis, an optometrist with VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision benefits company in the United States. “In fact, the sun sits lower in the sky during winter, providing more exposure.”

While Americans are pretty good about wearing sunglasses in summer, most tend to ignore the sun’s harmful effects in the winter months. But UV rays are dangerous all year. Snow is reflective, and up to 85 percent of the sun’s UV rays are reflected back up into the eyes.

Those UV rays damage eyes the same way they damage skin, and can cause cataracts, macular degeneration and cancerous growths both inside and around the eyes, all of which can cause blindness.

However, much of the damage the sun causes can be prevented simply by wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays.

Start Young

UV damage is cumulative over time and doesn’t heal, so start protecting your eyes from the sun now. That includes making sure children are outfitted with sunglasses and protecting eyes of all ages from the sun all year.

Most UV damage occurs before age 18, but less than 30 percent of children wear sunglasses.

“In the winter, parents aren’t slathering their kids with sunscreen, and are instead bundling them up with coats and scarves,” says Dr. Lewis. “So sunglasses aren’t intuitively top of mind, but they should be.”

Check The Label

Make sure your sunglasses are 99-100 percent UV-rated. Tinted sunglasses won’t provide UV protection unless they have a UV rating on the label. Wearing tinted glasses that are not actually protective allow the pupils to dilate, which lets more radiation in the eyes than wearing no sunglasses at all.

Also, the more coverage the frame provides, the more protection you will receive. You may also want to get polarized lenses, which cut down on glare, if you live in a snowy area or by water.

“When the sun is shining on the snow, it’s almost impossible to see, let alone drive without sunglasses,” cautions Dr. Lewis. “And that’s a real safety hazard.”

Be Functional in Style

Different color lenses work better for different conditions. For example, yellow lenses are great for skiing since they filter out blue light that can make focusing difficult. Green lenses are great for general outdoor use, and brown/amber lenses enhance depth perception, making them good for driving and sports. You can learn more at Or see your local eye doctor, who can help you find the right shades for your needs — particularly if you prefer the convenience of prescription lenses.

Just remember as you’re bundling up this winter to make sure your eyes don’t go naked!

Courtesy State Point Media Inc.

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