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January Newsletter: Why You Should Wear Sunglasses in the Winter

Woman in the snow wear sunglasses to protect her eyes.

Why You Should Wear Sunglasses in the Winter

Sunglasses aren't just a summer fashion accessory. The tinted lenses protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun no matter what the season. In fact, wearing sunglasses during the winter could reduce your risk of several common eye diseases.

Sun Exposure Affects Your Eyes Year-Round

When it's cold and windy outside, sun damage is probably the last thing you're worried about. UVA light damages the skin and eyes, although it can't be seen or felt. Two types of ultraviolet light rays, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), can cause eye disease or conditions ranging from cataracts to cancer. UVA and UVB rays aren't just a problem during sunny days. The rays also affect your skin and eyes on cloudy days.

Shielding your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun is a simple way to protect your eyes and prevent vision changes. Specially tinted sunglass lenses block UVA and UVB light, preventing it from entering your eyes.

3 Eye Conditions Caused by Sun Exposure

If you don't protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses, you may be more likely to develop one of these eye conditions:

  • Dry Eye. A layer of tears constantly covers the eyes, keeping them moist and lubricated. Exposure to sun and wind, whether on a sunny summer day or a cloudy winter day, may cause tears to evaporate too quickly causing painfully dry eyes.
  • Sunburned Corneas: Have your eyes ever felt sore after shoveling snow or spending the day on the ski slopes? You may have photokeratitis, a condition that occurs when the clear corneal tissue that covers your iris and pupil becomes sunburned. Snow reflects sunlight, which increases your risk for developing photokeratitis. Spending time around fresh snow doubles your sun exposure, according to the World Health Association.
  • Growths. Sun exposure may also cause bumpy growths on your sclera, the white part of your eyes. Called pterygium, these growths usually aren't a cause for concern unless they grow over your cornea and affect your vision. Pinguecula, another sun-related condition, occur when raised yellow growths appear on the whites of your eyes.

Want to Avoid These Serious Eye Diseases? Start Wearing Sunglasses Now

Exposure to UV light may be a factor in cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and cancer. These diseases take years to develop and can be affected by other factors in addition to the sun. Although you may not always be able to prevent one of these eye diseases, you can reduce your risk by wearing sunglasses every day of the year.

Cataracts happen when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy. Removal of the lens and replacement with an artificial lens implant is the only way to improve your vision if you have cataracts. In addition to causing cloudy or blurry vision, cataracts make colors look faded, worsen glare, and make night driving difficult.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when cells begin to die in the macula, the center part of the retina. The retina captures light, interprets that light, and sends impulses to the brain, which processes and stores them as images. AMD causes blurry vision or a blind spot in your central vision.

Cancer on your eyelids or in your eye may also be a hazard of sun exposure. The American Cancer Society expected almost 3,500 cases of cancer affecting the eye or orbit (the structures around the eye) to be diagnosed in 2023.

Protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. Follow the American Optometric Association's advice and wear sunglasses that block 100% UVA and UVB, in addition to scheduling regular visits with the optometrist. Need to make an appointment? Contact our office to schedule your visit.

Sources:

World Health Association: Radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation, 3/9/2016

https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/radiation-ultraviolet-(uv)

American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Eye Cancer, 1/12/2023

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/eye-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

United States Environmental Protection Agency: Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation and Sun Exposure, 7/6/2023

https://www.epa.gov/radtown/ultraviolet-uv-radiation-and-sun-exposure

American Optometric Association: Ultraviolet (UV) Protection

https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/uv-protection?sso=y

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