When we think of summer, we’re flooded with images of beaches, sun hats, ice cream and sunglasses! How many times have you kicked yourself for not bringing along your sunglasses to a day at the beach or the park? Probably too many to remember, right?
Despite what our culture would have you believe, sunglasses are not just a summer staple. We should be wearing sunglasses all year round to protect us from the sun.
The trouble is that many people think that sunglasses are a summer fashion staple. You wouldn’t wear short shorts in the dead of winter, so why would you wear sunglasses?
Well, sunglasses are not supposed to be a fashion accessory. They are tools to protect our eyes from the sun in every climate. Sunglasses have their roots in Northern climates, where hunters used makeshift sun blocking glasses.
It’s time we stop thinking of sunglasses as solely a fashion accessory. Again, they should be worn all year round. Just because you can’t feel the heat of the sun doesn’t mean that the ultraviolet rays aren’t harmful.
Wearing sunglasses during the winter is just as important as wearing them in the summer.
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, then you’ll probably be familiar with snow blindness. Snow blindness is a type of temporary blindness that can make skiing and other outdoor snow sports very dangerous. It can also make activities like driving dangerous.
Snow reflects up to 85 percent of the sun’s rays. When you aren’t wearing sunglasses or some sort of protective eyewear, you may experience temporary snow blindness.
Snow blindness occurs when your eyes become overexposed to the sun as it’s reflected off of the snow. Skiers know this condition all too well. When you’re hit with snow blindness, you lose your vision completely. This can make going down the slopes at high speeds very dangerous.
Snow blindness is very painful. Essentially, it is a sunburn in your eyes. Like a sunburn, snow blindness can only begin to show symptoms hours after sun exposure. However, in some extreme cases like on the ski slopes, snow blindness can strike quite suddenly.
Some common symptoms of snow blindness include:
- Eye pain
- A burning sensation in and around the eyes
- Eye redness
- Swollen eyes and eyelids
- A feeling of foreign objects in the eye
- A sensitivity to light
- Halos or glares around light sources
- Overly watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Persistent headaches
Snow blindness will severely impair your vision. The issue typically resolves itself within a day or two. If it doesn’t, talk to your doctor immediately. You may be suffering from a more severe condition or injury.
Coping with Snow Blindness
There isn’t any treatment for snow blindness because it is only temporary. The eyes will heal on their own. However, there are a few things you can do to speed up recovery time.
If you wear contact lenses, be sure to remove them. Don’t wear them until your eyes have healed. Try to stay indoors and out of the sun during the healing process. If you do need to go outside, wear sunglasses. This will relieve you of some discomfort especially if you are experiencing sensitivity to light.
If you experience redness or swollen eyes, a damp cloth can help in relieving these symptoms. Both a cold or warm compress will work, depending on your preference.
Whatever you do, it is important to not rub your eyes. You’ll only cause more pain and slow the healing of your eyes. Just like you wouldn’t scratch a sun burn, don’t rub your sunburnt eyes.
Skin cancer is closely linked to sunburns and overexposure to the sun. Unfortunately, your eyes are also subject to developing cancer if exposed to too many UV rays. UV rays don’t take the day off just because it’s cold. They can affect your skin and eyes at any time and during any season.
The reason we don’t wear sunblock on our skin during the winter is because our clothes protect our skin. There is less of a risk of getting a sunburn. However, our eyes remain at risk.
Developing skin cancer is a slow process. Getting one sunburn will not cause intraocular melanoma. However, repeated sunburns and instances of snow blindness may lead to cancer cells forming in the eyes.
Some symptoms of intraocular melanoma includes:
- Flashes of light
- Floaters in your vision
- Blurred vision
- Dark patches in your vision (that will grow over time)
- Total or partial vision loss
- Bulging of one eye
- A lump on the eyelid or the actual eye
- Pain around the eye or inside the eye
Unfortunately, there is no cure for intraocular melanoma. The only treatment available is radiation therapy. This form of therapy has shown to destroy cancer cells. However, it has also left patients with vision loss and other vision complications.
Researchers continue to test for new ways to treat eye cancer. However, this is a very rare condition. Developing intraocular cancer happens over a very long period of time. If you regularly wear sunglasses and other sun blocking eye protection, then you likely have nothing to worry about.
Prevention is Key
How can you avoid snow blindness this winter? Well, the answer couldn’t be simpler. Wear sunglasses!
Sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays are all you need. If you play winter sports, it is highly recommended that you wear tinted goggles with UV ray protection.
Be sure to check that the sunglasses protect from UV rays. Not all sunglasses are created equal, especially the lower end ones. Ideally, you’ll want to get a pair of sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV ray protection. It is not recommended that you buy anything that offers protection below 90 percent.
As the cold weather bares down on us, we’re much less likely to slap on the sunglasses. Whether it’s for fashion reasons or because we just don’t think we need them; we do. Protect your eyes from the sun all year round!