Keeping Your Eyes Safe During the Winter
For many people, the thought of winter isn’t filled with hibernating on the couch; instead, it involves spending days slicing into soft-white powder on popular ski and snowboard trails, hiking beautiful mountains, and sledding with the entire family. If you’re planning on making this winter season one of your most active yet, you may be missing out on a preparation step that could be critical to your health: keeping your eyes safe while you’re on the slope.
In the summer, we know that it’s important to wear sunscreen and sunglasses – but many times, we ditch those habits in the winter. The sunlight may seem weaker during the colder winter season, but that doesn’t mean your eyes are any safer. In fact, sunlight can be significantly amplified by snow, which can expose your eyes to UV radiation.
To highlight the surprising impact of the winter sun on your eyes, a recent study published in Archives of Dermatology details how researchers took UV radiation readings at over 30 high-altitude ski areas in North America, and also interviewed thousands of skiers and snowboarders to see what steps they took to protect their eyesight. Skiers and snowboarders indicated that they only took minor precautions against the sunlight; unfortunately, this coincided with researchers discovering the highest UV rating at the ever-popular Mammoth Mountain ski destination in California.
What’s more, these UV ratings can be powerful even during the cloudiest of days. UV radiation increases as elevation climbs, which means that skiers and snowboarders are at risk for greater damage. These high UV levels last from early winter until late spring; in other words, when snow is most likely to be on the ground.
Sunlight that’s reflected off of the surface of snow can damage eyes by leading to the development of cataracts, AMD, lesions, and even tumors. Many of these tumors can only be removed by surgery, resulting in a very expensive and painful lesson for skiers and snowboarders who don’t prioritize their eye health and safety.
But you don’t have to stay bundled inside to protect your eyesight. To keep your eyes safe during the winter, be sure to wear goggles and other eye protection that protects eyes from UV radiation. Make sure that you wear eye protection when you’re out in the snow, whether you’re skiing down a mountain or having a snow fight with your children.
To learn more about protecting your eyes during the winter, visit Dr. Jacqueline Griffiths and her team at NewView Eye Center in Reston, VA, serving patients throughout Northern Virginia, Fairfax County, and Washington, D.C. To learn more fill out the form on your left or call (703) 834-9777.