Winter Eye Safety

Protecting your eyes from the harsh effects of UV rays is just as important in January as it is in June. A common misconception with eye safety is believing that eye damage can not occur in the winter months and that eye safety practices can go on holiday until next year. Sun exposure can increase the development of cataracts, and cause growths on the eye regardless of the season.


The sun can have a seemingly harsh reflection off the snow in the winter and it’s critical to take the necessary precautions in protecting yourself such as wearing hats, sunscreen, goggles or other UV protective eyewear. Studies have found that exposure to UV radiation can even be high on cloudy days with the northern hemisphere having its highest exposure at midday. Dr. Anne Sumers, a practicing ophthalmologist in Ridgewood, NJ and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Ophthalmologist states, “Sunlight reflected off the snow can actually sunburn the cornea in the winter.”


With the heart of winter just around the corner for most of the US, here’s a few tips on what you can do to stay ahead of the weather and protect your eyes:


Wear sunglasses

Snowy and icy conditions double the sun’s effect as ultraviolet rays have access to your eyes from both above and as reflections off the snow. Wearing sunglasses can block 99% of UV light, therefore taking the pressure off of your eyes. It’s important to consistently practice this type of eye protection, even on cloudy days. Many people aren’t aware that the sun’s harsh effects are not specific to sunny days.

Moisturize your eyes

If you already suffer from dry eye, a condition in which the body doesn’t properly produce tears, then it’s likely for you to have difficulty in keeping your eyes moist and comfortable – even in the winter. It’s important to try to use eye drops, sit farther away from heat sources, or use a humidifier to alleviate dryness in the environment for your eyes.

Use goggles during winter activities

Goggles help protect your eyes during activities where dirt, slush, snow and ice can get into your eyes while outdoors. It’s very likely for things to get trapped in your eye while skiing or snowboarding and it’s particularly dangerous to not practice a safety regiment as temporary or permanent blindness are possible during these activities. Find goggles that either have enough room to wear UV protection sunglasses underneath them or a find a pair with UV protection already built into the goggles themselves. It’s very important to be careful while snowboarding, skiing, or engaging in winter activities in high altitudes because UV radiation exposure increases four to five percent for every 1,000 feet above sea level.

If your patient has experienced discomfort with their vision when the temperatures cool off, be sure to inform them about including optomap in their comprehensive eye exam. optomap can help diagnose and treat early signs of eye ailments.