You may be ready to hit the slopes and lace up your skates, but have you thought about how to protect your eyes while you enjoy the winter weather? Sunglasses and sunscreen aren’t just for hanging out on the golf course or for lounging around the pool. They are also an invaluable element in winter sports eye protection. Read on to learn about the risks posed to your eyes while you’re having fun on skis and skates, and how to protect yourself from this damage.
Many people assume that their eyes risk damage during the summer, but fail to realize how dangerous the winter sun can be. While sand reflects only 15 percent of the sun’s damaging UV rays, snow bounces back a stunning 80 percent into your eyes. In addition, high altitude environments—such as ski slopes—have thinner air, which permits more UV radiation into the atmosphere. Atop high mountains, UV exposure can reach peak levels of 15 percent above average. That means that high-exposure snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, without winter sports eye protection, are even more risky than heading out to the beach.
You may think that overcast, cloudy weather is less dangerous, but wintery haze and clouds do not absorb enough UV radiation to protect your eyes from long-term damage. Most people pack up their sunglasses on a wintery day, not realizing that clouds can hide the immediate symptoms of ocular damage without getting rid of the problem. Your eyes are most in danger during the high altitude, midday conditions that most skiers chase all winter.
These conditions can cause squinting and discomfort just as easily as a bright, sunny day at the beach—but they also carry more serious risks. Photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness, frequently affects skiers and snowboarders who do not properly protect their eyes. This condition is almost like a sunburn to the eyes. It causes intense pain, blurry vision, and even temporary loss of sight. Photokeratitis can also lead to serious sporting accidents, since you’re less likely to catch sight of patches of ice or other skiers before a collision occurs.
Ice sports, such as figure skating, speed skating, and ice hockey, also pose significant risks to the eye and eye area. Although winter sports eye protection is often not required for participation in these sports, it can provide an extra layer of security against flying shards of ice and facial impacts.
If you’re hitting the slopes this winter, be sure to invest in a sunscreen that is specifically formulated to protect the area around the eyes from UV rays. You should also wear specialized sports goggles with 100 UVA and UVB protection, which will protect your eyes from harmful radiation while absorbing glare and keeping your line of sight clear. Polarized or tinted goggle lenses come in a variety of colors to suit different snow or weather conditions, and are perfect for enhancing your vision even further. Skiers and snowboarders should also come prepared with a wide-brimmed hat or helmet that covers the skin around your eyes, which is also sensitive to UV rays.
Wearing proper eye protection might feel like a drag, but it is the only way to keep your eyes safe and healthy for years of winter fun. So the next time you head out, give your eyes the care and protection they deserve. In the meantime, head to Dr. Barry Leonard’s office to browse the latest winter sports eye protection and gear! Our experienced staff can introduce you to the latest trends in sports goggles, help you find the perfect sunglasses, and show off our range of cutting-edge polarized lenses. Call us at 818-891-6711 to learn more!