Feeling tempted to stow your favorite shades during the winter months? Don’t do it. Even though the winter solstice makes the days shorter and places the sun’s direct rays over the Southern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere dwellers are still getting plenty of direct sunlight.
At Stoggles, we love the sun. On a cold day, nothing feels better than getting outside and getting a little vitamin D. We know, however, that the sun can be brutal—on your skin and on your eyes. Certain conditions in winter make the sun even more dangerous to your vision.
Before you hit the slopes or brave the ice, here’s what you need to know about keeping your eyes safe from the sun and freezing temps.
Sunlight and Your Eyes
The sun gives off three types of rays, each of which can be damaging to your eyes. UVA, UVB, and UVC rays are invisible, high-energy rays that have the capability of penetrating your eye and damaging your retina.
Wait, What’s the Retina?
Glad you asked. Let’s take a little sidebar here and discuss why the retina is important. Your retina is located at the back of your eye, behind the cornea (the front portion of your eye), the iris (the colored portion of your eye), the lens, and a ton of protective, gelatinous goo called vitreous.
Deep behind these layers of protection lies the retina, and the retina is where vision happens. Your retina is home to millions of light-sensitive cells that collect “data” and send it to your brain via the optic nerve. In response, your brain tells you what you see.
Retinal damage affects your vision, so it’s crucial to keep your retina as safe as possible. Now back to the sun.
Of the three types of UV rays emitted by the sun, UVC rays are the most harmful. These are the highest energy and shortest wavelength. UVC rays are blocked by the earth’s atmosphere. So, the only way you would be exposed to them is from an artificial source, like a sanitizing UVC lamp or a laser.
UVB rays are the second most dangerous and are responsible for sunburns and skin cancers like melanomas. UVB rays can cause conditions in your eyes like photokeratitis, a type of sunburn of the cornea, which we will discuss later.
For your eyes, UVB rays are dangerous but aren’t as dangerous as UVA rays. UVA rays are the closest on the light spectrum to visible light, and your eyes aren’t able to filter these rays effectively. This means UVA rays can pass directly through your cornea to your lens, which can damage it and lead to vision problems.
UVA rays can also reach your retina, causing permanent vision damage and causing retinal disease that may not be treatable.
UV Ray Eye Injuries
Sun exposure that results in eye injuries are more common than you think. Even though we love wearing our sunglasses, UV-related eye damage affects about 34% of the population.
Call it a lackadaisical attitude toward eye protection on cloudy days or simply a lack of information surrounding eye-related sun damage, but the statistics don’t lie: Our eyes are becoming damaged from sun exposure.
Even in the winter, you’re still at risk of developing conditions related to eye damage. Reflections from snow and ice can place you at higher risk of developing certain conditions, especially if you don’t know how to protect yourself from them.
Here are five UV ray eye conditions you can develop if you aren’t protected.
You might associate cataracts with the senior population, but anyone can develop them at any age. Developing a cataract means the lens of your eye( which is normally clear) becomes cloudy and, in some cases, opaque.
Cataracts interfere with your vision and can cause blindness if they aren’t removed. Cumulative exposure to sunlight without protection increases your risk of developing cataracts, whether you’re in the 65+ crowd or not.
2. Surfer’s Eye
Surfer’s Eye is so named because it’s a common eye issue developed by people who spend a lot of time on the water (i.e., surfers). However, Surfer’s Eye, also known as “pterygium,” can also affect people who participate in activities on the snow.
This condition develops when the protective membrane that covers the eye, known as the conjunctiva, becomes inflamed and enlarged. This happens from prolonged exposure to reflected light, the kind you’d be exposed to while catching waves or snowboarding.
This condition can clear up on its own, but it has some pretty uncomfortable symptoms. Feeling like there is grit or sand in your eye, itchiness, redness, and excessive tearing are all hallmarks of Surfer’s Eye; definitely not a condition that will leave you feeling “stoked.”
3. Macular Degeneration
In the center of your retina is a structure called the macula. This structure is responsible for detailed vision, like seeing individual hairs on your arm or seeing individual grains of sand.
Damage to the macular is usually age-related and expected, but researchers believe there is likely a connection between early-onset macular degeneration and overexposure to UV light.
As a side note, blue light, another form of invisible light, is also able to pass through your lens and reach your retina and macula. Although researchers aren’t yet sure of the impact blue light has on the macula, the fact that it can penetrate the cornea and lens and reach it is a cause for concern.
Blue light blocking glasses keep your eyes shielded from blue light emitted from the sun and screens on your phone, tablets, and televisions.
4. Skin Cancers of the Eyelid
Your eyelids are just as susceptible to skin cancer as the skin on the rest of your body. Your eyelid skin is incredibly thin and fragile, which makes it even more vulnerable because it burns more easily than other places on your body where your skin is thicker.
The biggest concern with eyelid skin cancer is the development of a bump or lump that isn’t visible on the exterior of the lid. Although you will eventually be able to feel it, a cancerous lesion that grows on the inside of your eyelid may not be visible until it is in its later stages.
5. Snow Blindness
Possibly the most common form of winter sun-related eye injury is snow blindness. You probably think snow blindness means the inability to see clearly for a few minutes after you’ve been outside in the snow. The glare from the snow makes it difficult to see normally once you enter inside a building, and it takes your eyes a few moments to adjust.
Photokeratitis is a type of sunburn of the cornea, but the way your cornea burns is different than the way your skin burns. Corneal burns left untreated can cause permanent vision loss.
Symptoms of snow blindness include:
- Eye pain
- Watering eyes
- Seeing flashes of lights or halos
- Eye muscle twitches
- Feeling like there is something in your eyes
Most of the time, snow blindness will go away on its own. If you have symptoms that persist more than three days, you’ll need to get an eye exam and make sure there’s no permanent damage.
5 Reasons To Wear Sunglasses in the Winter
Obviously, you want to protect your eyes from the conditions listed above. Still, some of us are a hard sell, especially if we’re asked to wear eye protection on a cloudy day when our biggest concern is getting down a double black diamond.
Relax. You’ve got options for eye protection, and if sunglasses make it too dark for you to enjoy your activities, you can still protect your eyes from UV rays.
1. They Block UV Rays
Not all sunglasses block UV rays. Read it again. On those imposter glasses, the level of shade on your glasses is only there to keep you comfortable (and arguably to make you look cool). Your sunglasses need to be treated with UV blocking material to ensure that your eyes are protected.
This means a pair of clear glasses that are made from UV blocking material or are treated with a protective clear coating can offer your eyes UV ray protection, even on a cloudy day. Stoggles safety glasses, for instance, are made from polycarbonate, which is naturally 100% UV blocking.
If you need UV protection on a cloudy day, grab a pair of Stoggles before you shred the slopes. You’ll be able to see, and your eyes will be protected from UV rays and rogue icicles.
2. They Block Sunlight
Reflected light and sunlight make it hard to see. It’s probably why you bought your sunglasses in the first place; to shade your eyes from bright light. Sunglasses help protect your eyes from the sunlight, and also help cut down on glare from the snow, ice, or water.
This is crucial to consider, even if you wear a hat when you’re outdoors. Remember, many of the sun related injuries that happen in the winter are caused by glare from reflected light on the water or snow.
3. They Protect You From Cold
Cold temps can cause irritation to your eyes and cause them to become dry. This can lead to excessive tearing, or even corneal abrasions if you rub your eyes too much. Wearing a pair of safety sunglasses like SunStoggles can ensure the cold isn’t blowing directly in your eyeballs when you’re outside.
Our SunStoggles are built with top and side shields, so no matter which direction the north wind is blowing, you can keep your eyes shielded from the gusts.
4. Protection From Debris
We all know the funny line from the famous movie: “Those icicles have been known to kill people.” Ralphie’s mom might’ve been a little overzealous in how she reacted to her son playing outdoors in the winter, but it’s not overly cautious to wear safety glasses when you’re skiing, sledding, skating, or hiking.
Any form of outdoor activity places you at a higher risk of taking a piece of debris to the eye, which at best could result in impaired vision and pain for a few days and at worst, could cost you your eyesight. Wearing proper eye protection is crucial for keeping your vision when you’re enjoying your favorite outdoor sport.
Play it safe and opt for sunglasses that protect you from all sides with serious, impact-resistant protection. Our polycarbonate frames and lenses are tested to ANSI Z78.1 standards to ensure even the largest, most dangerous icicles won’t crack or break your frames and injure your eyes.
5. They Look Cool as Ice
If you want to talk about sunglasses, you have to talk about style. No matter how much your eyes are protected by your sunglasses, if they aren’t comfortable and don’t make you feel like a rockstar even if you’re on the bunny slopes, they aren’t worth wearing.
SunStoggles are the lovechild of safety and style, and they’re damn good looking. For winter eye protection (and year round style and safety) there’s simply no better option. SunStoggles give you the ability to keep your eyes safe from UV rays, debris, cold temps, and bright light.
Added bonus: All Stoggles glasses block blue light, too. When you hit the lodge to post your GoPro pics, your Stoggles will protect your eyes from blue light emitted by your phone or tablet.
You’ve got all the reasons why, now you just need to shop. We’ve got you covered. Stoggles are available in numerous shape and color combinations so you can customize a pair (or two or three) to suit your needs.
Play it safe this winter, and keep your eyes protected in style. Stoggles are the safety glasses that keep your eyes stylish and secure in every season.
Sources:HIDDEN DANGERS OF UV: KEEPING YOUR EYES SAFE|The Vision Council.org