As San Diego residents, we may not find it unusual to see people wearing sunglasses during the winter season since we are fortunate enough to have sunny days year-round. Although wearing sunglasses during winter could just be a fashion statement, it is actually a vital precautionary measure to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays. For the same reason, we are encouraged to protect our skin with sunscreen on cloudy days, our eyes are constantly at risk.
There are numerous reasons why we are still susceptible to the sun’s rays during winter. First, since it’s fall, most of the leaves from the trees have fallen which removes the shade that usually shields us. Thus, without any of us even realizing it, we are more exposed to UV rays. Also, the sun sits lower in the sky in spring, autumn, and winter, which can cast damaging glares directly into eyes.
The sun’s position in the sky can be especially detrimental when these high glares reflect off 5% from grass, 25% from concrete and sand, 30-100% from water, and up to 90% from snow. When the sun is at its lowest on the horizon, between 8 – 10 am & 2-4pm, it is imperative to wear sunglasses to avoid maximum UV exposure. Lastly, 90% of UV radiation can penetrate clouds when we think the sun is hidden. Remember, although we may not see the sun, this doesn’t always mean the UV rays aren’t shining through.
To help you better understand these seasonal changes, Olivia Pedersen, a graphic designer, created this visual:
If you’re not protecting your eyes, the damage could be irreversible. Vision problems resulting from too much UV exposure include;
- Cataracts - around 20% of cataract cases are thought to be have been caused or made worse by excessive UV exposure.
- Macular degeneration
- Cancers affecting the eye, eyelid, and surrounding areas.
- Eye damage from photokeratitis, or “sunburned eyes”.
- Eye damage from pterygium, a tissue that grows over the eyes
To ensure your vision is protected from these conditions, take these precautionary measures:
- Purchase sunglasses with UV protection and wear them whenever you are outside.
- If you can, keep extra pairs of sunglasses in your purse, in your car, and at work so you always have a pair handy.
- If you wear prescription glasses, tinted or polarized prescription glasses are available.
- Find glasses that fit close to your face, have wider lenses, and have thicker rims and arms to guarantee the most coverage possible.
- Ask your optometrist for more personalized tips to better protect your eyes.
The more we educate our friends and family, the better. Unfortunately, “over 50% of parents do not require nor do they teach their children the importance of sunglasses and harmful UV exposure”, as revealed by The Vision Council. Remind your loved ones about the importance of protecting their vision. Next time you’re heading out the door this winter, don’t forget to grab your sunscreen, scarf, and sunglasses to ensure you’re checking all the boxes and caring for your body properly.