Winterize Your Eyes

  Dr. Pamela Lynch

Dr. Pamela Lynch

In the winter, staying warm while outdoors is typically our main concern. However, eye protection is just as important during cold months as in the warm summer season. Dry air, reflections off snow or ice and falling debris are examples of potential risks. Whether working or playing outside, remember to be aware of your environment and take extra precautions to protect your eyes from injury or irritation.

Damaging ultraviolet (UV) light is naturally emitted from the sun and up to 80% of wavelengths reflect off the snow, nearly doubling the risk of exposure. Related to ocular health, UV light exposure can lead to early progression of cataracts, macular degeneration, wrinkles, and skin cancer. Sunlight reflected off the snow can actually sunburn the cornea causing photokeratitis, more commonly known as “snow blindness.” Polarized sunglasses with 100% ultraviolet protection are a necessity when heading outdoors or driving during the winter season, even on cloudy days. A brimmed hat or visor may also help to reduce harmful rays and glare.

Cold, dry air and harsh winds can cause tear film deficiencies and ocular surface damage. Heat or air circulation from a fire or heater can increase symptoms of burning, watery eyes and blurry vision. Under these conditions, using an air humidifier and aiming heating vents away from your face will decrease ocular surface dryness. Also, remember to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water when it is cold outside. Non-preserved artificial tears may help soothe dry eye symptoms temporarily.

Whether skiing, snowboarding or working outdoors, protective eye wear should be included in your accessories. Protective goggles while actively involved outdoors help to block debris, such as dirt, ice or twigs, from causing eye injuries. Wraparound sunglasses and ski goggles can also protect against glare, wind and other harmful elements.

Have fun and stay active outdoors during these cold, snowy months, but if your eyes feel particularly uncomfortable or may have damage from sun or debris, schedule an appointment with your eye care provider today. Keep your eyes safe this winter!