Why You Should Wear Sunglasses During the Winter

If you’ve put your sunglasses away for winter, it might be a good idea to get them back out. Many people don’t think about wearing sunglasses during the winter because the sun isn’t out as often, and when it is, it may not seem as intense. But ultraviolet (UV) rays can be just as damaging to your eyes during the winter as they are during the summer.

UV Rays During The Winter

UV rays are still strong during the winter because the sun sits lower in the sky, and at a different angle. Your eyes can be susceptible to UV exposure when sunlight bounces off of snow and reflects UV rays back up (sometimes up to 80 percent of them).

Additionally, when sunlight reflects off of snow, it makes it very bright outside and can create an intense glare that makes it difficult to see.

If you participate in winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, or spend a lot of time outside around snow, there’s an increased risk of overexposure to UV rays. In the short-term, too much UV ray exposure can cause snow blindness, also known as sunburned eyes. In the long-term, overexposure to UV rays can lead to eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.

UV Rays and Children

Children probably spend more time outside than most adults. Since the lenses inside of their eyes are clearer, they can let in more UV rays. Roughly 25-50 percent of a child’s lifetime exposure to UV rays can happen before they are 18. So make sure your kids wear sunglasses too.

Other Good Reasons To Wear Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses in the winter can offer additional benefits beyond UV ray protection. They can:

  • Prevent your eyes from drying out by acting as a shield against the cold air outside
  • Reduce headaches and eye soreness from squinting during bright conditions
  • Protect the delicate skin around your eyes from wrinkling

Tips for Choosing The Right Sunglasses

It’s important to understand that wearing any old sunglasses may not give your eyes the comfort and protection they need. Here are some things to consider from the American Academy of Ophthalmology when you’re selecting sunglasses:

  • Always purchase sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
  • Wrap-around or close fitting sunglasses give your eyes the best all-around protection
  • Polarized lenses can reduce glare that reflects off snow or water. They are good for activities like driving and fishing
  • Photochromic lenses automatically darken and lighten based on how much UV light is outside. When you’re not exposed to UV light, the lenses are clear. They can be a good solution for general outdoor use, although sunglasses with darker lenses may be required in some conditions. Take note: They don’t function the same when you’re in a car since your windshield blocks UV rays
  • Polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant, meaning they’re less likely to shatter when hit by an object. They can be good for sports and any type of physical activity
  • Gradient lenses can be either single or double gradient:
    • Single gradient lenses, which are dark on top and lighter on the bottom, can reduce glare when you look up and allow you to see clearly when you look down. They can be good for driving but not as good for reducing glare from snow or water
    • Double gradient lenses, which are darker on the top and bottom and lighter in the middle, are good in situations where light is reflecting off of water or snow. They can be good for sports, but are not recommended for driving

For more tips on what to look for in sunglasses, check out their website.

Meet the Author

Aurora Vision Center offers comprehensive ophthalmology and optometry services in 13 convenient locations throughout Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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