Winter Eye Care
Many times, we donít realize that some of the changes that accompany winter
pose hazards to our eyes. Most people think that
it is only necessary to protect
their eyes from the sun during the
summer. But the Sunís influence does not
diminish during the rest of the year so the eyes need to be protected during the
winter too. Exposure to
UV rays during winter can temporarily harm the eyes as
well as increase the risk of developing sunlight-related eye disorders,
including cataracts. The sun is not winterís only eye hazard. Its cool winds and
drier air can irritate the eyes while outdoors.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology ó the Eye M.D. Association ó offers the
Indoor heat used during winter months tends to rid the air of moisture
which can dry out and irritate eyes. Use a humidifier in the bedroom during
months with low humidity. This helps moisten dry eyes, especially when exposed
to forced air heating.
Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV light, especially when
the ground is covered in snow. People forget the sun is just as bright when
reflected by the snow as it is when glinting off the ocean and beach, leading
to sunburned eyes. High-quality, UV-blocking
sunglasses can prevent this and
reduce exposure to the wind and cold. Later in life cataract formation and
retina problems may occur caused by the UV light. Overexposure to the winter
sun's powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays without proper
eye protection can
temporarily harm the eyes or even cause photokeratitis, a condition comparable
to a sunburn except sensitive tissues of the eyeball are the ones receiving
the burn. Although photokeratitis may heal with time, the best way to preserve
your vision is to avoid excess UV ray exposure.
Contact lens wearers should limit their outdoor exposure and use
artificial tears frequently. Soft contact lenses, in particular, are like
little sponges. They need lots of moisture. If they start to dry out, they can
change shape and stick to the eye, becoming painful and cloudy. Drinking
alcohol can also enhance this problem.
A number of people, especially skiers, snowmobilers, and other snow lovers
look forward to winter each year. For them, it means swishing down the slopes
or speeding through the snow. What winter outdoor enthusiasts donít realize is
that they spend extended periods of time in intense reflected sunlight which
can temporarily harm the eye. A pair of ski goggles with polycarbonate lenses,
properly fitted, can block out harmful UV light. The goggles will also protect
the eyes from hazards, such as tree branches and flying ski pole tips.
Bundle up by wearing a brimmed hat, wrap around sunglasses and a hooded
jacket or coat. This will help block the swirling, cold wind from the eyes and
prevent the tear film covering the eyes from evaporating.
These simple adjustments will help protect your eyes all winter long, but we
must remember that the best way to preserve our vision is to take good
our eyes no matter what season it is or what we are doing.