Keeping your eyes beautiful and healthy is rarely a top consideration for most women when they head outdoors in the winter months. Looking at decreased daylight and cold temperatures, it is easy to get the incorrect idea that your eyes do not need protection like they do during the summer months.
In winter, eyes need to be protected even more than in the summer months. Fresh snow reflects back the damaging UV rays onto your eyes and the sensitive, thin skin surrounding your eyes. The effect is that up to twice the amount of damaging UV is hitting this sensitive area.
Snow blindness can occur when too much UVB goes into the eye, burning the cornea. Symptoms include loss of vision. tearing, pain, and the appearance of halos around lights. Symptoms may not show up until 6-18 hours after exposure. Snow blindness can be treated with eye drops and keeping the eyes closed.
Cataracts are a clouding over of the eye lens. Vision is impaired, much like having grease smeared over a window. Thick cataracts can lead to blindness. Cataracts are treated by surgically replacing the lens of the eye.
Pteryguim, or surfer’s eye can also be caused by winter UV exposure. Normally pteryguia are benign growths that cover part of the eye. In some cases, the growth can interfere with vision. A variety of medical treatment options exist.
Skin cancer of the delicate skin around the eye is also another concern. Sunscreen can be applied to the skin before sun exposure. It is often uncomfortable to wear these creams on the eyelids and around the eye. Wraparound sunglasses or goggles designed for winter sports with UV protective lenses are a better choice.
What You Can Do
By far the most important part of protecting your eyes when performing winter sports is wearing the right kind of eye protection, including UV blocking lenses. Regular sunglasses or non-UV blocking lenses will make UV exposure worse by dilating the pupils, allowing even more UV into the eye.
Wrap around style goggles or glasses will completely cover the eye and the surrounding area, while not blocking any vision the way a hat or glasses with visible frame can.
When shopping for eye protection, look for a minimum of 90% blocking from all angles, and better yet, try to get 95 or 98% blocking. Wrap around glasses or goggles are best.