It may seem counter intuitive to wear sunglasses in winter; however, health experts warn that wearing sunglasses during winter months is essential.
Sunglasses are not only an important fashion accessory; they provide eye protection from harmful UV rays which are there no matter the season and can be a lot worse in winter.
They also protect your eyes from wind and dust particles as well as glare, particularly when driving.
Imagine driving home during winter without your sunglasses… very uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous trying to dodge the glare and intensity of the low winter sun!
If there are marks or dirt on your windscreen the glare becomes much worse as the light refracts off the surface which makes it harder to see.
The problem is that the majority of people still do not wear sunglasses in winter.
In fact, according to research conducted by Optometry Australia for the 2020 Vision Index, a staggering 76 per cent of Australians think wearing sunglasses in winter is unnecessary. Not only that but 10 percent do not know that you can buy sunglasses with UV protection.
In winter, the light that pours in through your windshield is a lot lower on the horizon than in summer. As a result of this angle the winter sun can cause intense glare when driving.
Damaging Ultraviolet (UV) Rays
Sophie Koh, Optometrist and Optometry Australia National Services Advisor, says that even on overcast and cold days that although we may not be able to see the sun “it’s there and so too are its damaging UV rays.”
“Just because the sun is behind the clouds, it doesn’t mean we should forget about protecting our eyes, especially when a staggering 90 per cent of the sun’s UV rays can filter through even the thickest cloud cover,” said Ms. Koh.
In winter UV levels are above three in many parts of Australia, which can place your eyes at risk of “short term or permanent damage – including cataracts, pterygium and photokeratitis,” says Ms Koh.
Winter Sun Eye Damage
Cataracts is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. It develops as we get older and is made worse by UV exposure. Wearing UV protected sunglasses during winter can substantially reduce the risk of cataracts.
Pterygium is a fleshy growth of tissue on the white of the eye that can extend over the cornea. It develops due to long term exposure to UV rays, wind, glare, and dust. It is also referred to as ‘Surfer’s Eye’ because surfers are in bright sunlight for long periods of the day and in the surf, which reflects UV rays. Pterygium is easily avoided by wearing UV sunglasses.
Photokeratitis, more commonly known as ‘Snow Blindness’, is an acute eye condition caused by overexposure to UV rays reflected off the snow and ice. Essentially, photokeratitis is the result of a sunburnt eye. It is a painful short term vision loss which rights itself in a day or two. Wearing UV sunglasses will protect you from this eye disease.
Stay sun smart in winter and always wear your sunglasses with UV protection when you are out and about.
If you have any questions about UV protection for the eyes, contact your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.