Keeping Your Eyes Healthy in Winter
Most of the time we think about protecting our eyes in the summer, when we’re out mowing the lawn, getting splashed in the pool, snorkeling, etc. And while the warmer months do bring several eye-related risks to be aware of, the winter has its own perilous nature that we should all be aware of.
Whether you’re sitting by the fire, out skiing, or riding your bike (yep, in good ol’ PDX many keep riding all year long), staying aware of your surroundings, and not taking your good vision for granted, is key. Here are some tips to keep you on track:
1. Maintain Moisture in Your Eyes: Colder weather means we have fires in the fireplace, crank up the heat, use space heaters, and generally exist in some pretty dry and cold conditions. Keeping your eyes moist during this warm, dry air exposure is important. Dry or irritated eyes can result from this kind of environment, sometimes leading to a chronic conditions where your eyes don’t produce enough tears. Some ways to fight back are to sit further away from heat sources, use eye lubricants such as artificial tears, and use a humidifier to keep a good level of moisture in the air. Read more about Chronic Dry Eye here, which we covered in an earlier blog article.
2. Wear UV and UVA-protected Sunglasses or Goggles: Much like waterskiing, or being on the water, snow is highly reflective and can easily double the effect of the sun’s UV and UVA rays entering your eyes. In fact, using sunglasses or goggles that block 99 to 100 percent of UV and UVA light is key, but also employing a hat or visor for extra coverage helps a lot during extra bright periods. Further, a good pair of sunglasses or goggles will also absorb HEV light, which, like UV and UVA light, is harmful to the eyes. Of course, we’ve all heard of snow blindness, and many have probably experienced a bit of this before…so stay protected! Ice and wet streets can have have the same effect as snow, so be prepared!
Here’s an article we did on the proper selection and use of sunglasses during National Sunglasses Day last summer.
3. Wear Eyeglasses More Often than Contact Lenses: With cold, dry air blowing around outside, eyeglasses do a better job of providing protecting to your eyes. Blasts of cold air are largely blocked more effectively by a pair of eye glasses (or at least lessened). Eye glasses also form a much better shield against flying debris (wind-driven or otherwise). Same goes for goggles.
4. Falls and the Elderly in the Winter: An often overlooked factor in winter is that the elderly (and people in general) are more likely to fall and injure themselves due to the greater prevalence of darkness (longer nights) and, of course, slippery surfaces. Getting regular eye tests and maintaining good vision is important in preventing falls. See your eye doctor to make sure your prescription is up to date. If you have an elderly family member, friend or neighbor, it’s worth making sure their glasses, contacts, etc. are up to snuff and ready for the lower winter light levels.
As always, if you are suffering from irritated, dry eyes, make an appointment with your eye doctor to get checked out. Further, if you’ve suffered any kind of eye injury, whether by the sun or by debris, seek treatment as soon as possible.