Most people know that as well as the sun cream, ice lollies, and inevitable rain, a great British summertime involves sunglasses. As well as being a fashion statement, they’re really important to help protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and blue light.
What you might not know though, is that the winter can cause just as much damage to your eyes as the summer can. So while you’re trying to keep warm or dodging the rain and wind, take a moment to think about how your eyes are reacting to your environment.
At Eye Emporium, we see a lot of patients in the colder months who are shocked when we tell them the risks that winter poses to their eyes.
It tends to get quite cold in the winter months, so it’s inevitable that you’ll have the heating on in your office, air conditioning in your car, or a nice warm fire at home. While this keeps your toes toasty, it can dry your eyes out, leaving them itchy, sore, or irritated. And for those who already suffer with a condition called dry eye, the effects can be even worse.
Make sure that your eyes are always moist. If they do start to feel dry or irritated, speak to your optician who will be able to recommend the best eye drops or artificial tears to relieve the problem.
You may spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter and if you do, you’ll know that despite the chill in the air, we still get a lot of sun. While this is great for keeping us cheerful (and dry!), it means that those UV rays are still a hazard to your eyes. In fact, our eyes are naturally ten times more sensitive than our skin is to UV light. And in winter, reflections of the sun in snow or water can intensify the effects of UV and cause worse damage to your eyes.
UVA and UVB can cause photokeratitis – or sunburn of the eye – in the short term, and more serious damage like cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which can cause blindness.
Wear protective sunglasses whenever you are outside in the sun – even in the winter – and keep them on even on bright but overcast days, as UV rays are still present. Remember, not all sunglasses actually protect your eyes from the harmful rays. Many sunglasses – and all too often, sunglasses purchased on the high street – don’t actually block the light they need to. You should look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV and 75-90% of visible light. Many people are under the illusion that darker lenses mean better protection, but this isn’t the case. If you’re unsure if your sunglasses offer the correct protection, ask your optician for advice.
Our final tip is for those who like to get away for some winter sun to enjoy the slopes (or the après ski!). At higher altitudes the air is thinner, which mean that more light can pass through it. This means that there is the potential to cause even more damage to your eyes.
Your optician will be able to suggest the best sunglasses for wearing in the mountains and they can also recommend the most suitable tints and coatings depending on the activities you’ll be taking part in.
As well as remembering your sunglasses, you should also consider investing in a pair of goggles that will protect your eyes from flying ice, slush or dirt, and make sure they are a correct fit so that they don’t move around while you’re moving. You can also get goggles with UV protection built in, so you don’t have to fit your sunglasses underneath.
For more information about protecting your eyes in the winter months, speak to our experts at Eye Emporium. Either pop into your nearest practice, or call the team on 0800 020 9202.