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Hats, Mitts, Gloves and Yes… Sunglasses!

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Winter must-haves for the outdoors

Did you know that damaging UV rays are present throughout the winter months, not just the summer? Winter glare is dangerous as the sun sits lower in the sky and closer to eye level.

Interesting to note that 27% of the population rarely or never wear sunglasses and 25% report having no concerns about UV exposure with respect to their eye health) It is apparent that the average consumer lacks the knowledge of the damaging effects of sunlight to eye health. Just like skin, eyes need protection from harmful UV rays. What does UV do? Below 400 nm of the light spectrum, ultraviolet light exists, but the wavelengths are too short to be visible to the human eye. Without adequate protection, UV is an accelerator for sunburns and skin cancers. According to skin cancers of the eyelid make up 10% of all skin cancers, while 20% of all skin cancers occur around the eye. UV can also result in photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea), pterygiums (pinkish, triangular tissue growth on the cornea of the eye). pingueculas (growth that forms on the conjunctiva, or white tissue near the cornea) and cataracts.

Most optical lens materials, but not all, absorb to 400nm but the harmful area of the spectrum doesn't stop at 400nm. It peaks at 440nm- the harmful High energy visible light (NEVI) area or short-wave blue light (between 380.450 nm). HEVL can penetrate the cornea and crystalline lens of the eye and is known to damage the retina over time if not protected with proper eyewear.

Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, even though UV rays make up only a small portion of the sun's rays. Different types of UV rays reach the ground in different amounts. About 95% of the LN rays from the sun that reach the ground are UVA, with the remaining 5% being UVB.2 In addition to direct IN exposure, we also need to remember that UV is also reflected. Water reflects up to 100% of UV, snow reflects up to 85%, dry sand, and concrete - 25%, and grass up to 3%? Consumer education is key when discussing UV and wearing proper sunglasses for eye protection.

About 95% of the UV rays from the sun that reach the ground are UVA, with the remaining 5% being UVB. In addition to direct UV exposure, we also need to remember that UV is also reflected.

It is equally important to educate on the importance of when to wear sunglasses. Sunglasses are an all•season necessity and required in all light conditions. There is a misconception that sunglasses only need to be worn during bright, warm sunny days. This is simply not true. Two thirds of the population don't wear sunglasses at all during the winter months. They have simply not been educated that UV is just as harmful as it is in the summer. With snow reflecting up to 85% of UV, a bright sunny day with a fresh snow fall puts undo strain and potential damage to anyone without proper eye protection.

Individuals who enjoy mountain sports, increase their exposure to UV rays as the higher the altitude, the greater the exposure to UV rays. Approximately for every 300 meters above sea level, exposure to UV rays increases by M.'
Colder months tend to mask the warmth felt by the sun on skin. This prevents the feeling of burning and gives a false sense of protection. The same is true for eyes - feeling falsely secure that the eyes are protected simply because it is a colder climate. UV protection for both our skin and eyes are a must - sunscreen and proper eye protection in all weather conditions.
Lastly, patients should be educated on the importance of polarized sunglasses and eliminating glare. Glare is not a health issue, but rather a safety and comfort issue. Polarized sunglasses are beneficial in the winter as they eliminate glare from ice and snow surfaces providing relaxed comfortable vision. In addition, CAA/AAA recommends and promotes polarized lenses for driving.

Weather should never be a factor on when to wear sunglasses. Proper eyewear is crucial in all types of conditions -hot, cold, warm, bright, dull and cloudy days. Every season is sunglass season.