We know the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun and understand that we need to wear sunglasses in summer, particularly as Australia has the highest levels of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the world – but what about when the temperature drops?
Do our eyes need to receive the same protection from UV rays in winter as we do in summer? Do we need to wear UV protected sunglasses in winter?
The short answer is, yes.
Wear Sunglasses in Winter
It is a common misconception that we don’t need to wear sunglasses in winter. In fact, more than 76 per cent of Australians believe wearing sunglasses in colder months isn’t necessary.
It may surprise you, but the sun can be at its most damaging in winter.
It is the time of year when the sun is lowest on the horizon, which is why you squint when intense glare pours through your windscreen on your drive home.
By wearing a quality pair of ultraviolet (UV) protected sunglasses you will not only protect your eyes from glare, but from the harmful UV light that can cause tissue damage to your conjunctiva and cornea.
Australian Standard: Lens Category 3
All sunglasses in Australia must be UV protected, whether they are worn for fashion, work, social or sport. They need to be tested and labelled according to the Australian standards which sets the allowable UV transmission limits for all sunglasses sold in Australia.
Sunglasses sold here must have a lens category 3 rating which provides a “high level of sun glare reduction and good UV protection”.
Winter Eye Damage
The winter sun can significantly damage your eyes as UV levels are above three in many parts of Australia. This level can place your eyes at risk of short term or permanent damage.
These eye conditions do not impact our eyes overnight, the results are “generally cumulative,” says Sophie Koh, National Professional Services Advisor, Optometry Australia.
“If you are not utilising eye protection when outside from early childhood eye problems are likely to develop later in life.”
Even when the sun is behind a bank of clouds your eyes are not protected from harmful UV rays. In fact, a staggering “90 per cent of the sun’s UV rays can filter through even the thickest cloud cover,” says Ms. Koh.
The sun can burn our eyes in winter.
Eye sunburn – photokeratitis (or snow blindness) – is an eye condition caused by overexposure to UV rays. It occurs to people who are exposed to high levels of UV radiation when the sun is reflected off surfaces such as the water or snow affecting people who do outdoor activities such as skiing or water sports.
Sunburn to the eye also happens to people who work in welding. Welder’s Flash Burn occurs when a person who uses a welding torch is exposed to the bright flash of UV radiation indoors when they are welding. Flash burn is a type of sunburn to the eye.
It is important that we wear sunglasses with UV protection all year round to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays.
Protect your eyes in winter. Consult your local Eyecare Plus optometrist for advice on the right sunglasses to wear for UV protection.