For many of us, winter seems like the perfect time of year to take a break from sunscreen and sunglasses. It seems to make sense – with the sun nowhere in sight, why bother?
Unfortunately, the sun’s rays don’t take a break during winter.
UV Light in Winter
Many of us associate heat with the strength of the sun’s rays. That’s a myth.
The UV rays emitted by the sun are invisible and radioactive. Two of the three types of these UV rays, UVA and UVB, pose significant risk to your health – and to the health of your children.
To protect yourself (and your kids) from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays over time, you need to be vigilant about wearing sunglasses and sun protection in winter too.
UVA Light in Winter
“UVA rays remain constant throughout the year and can penetrate through clouds and fog. UVA rays can also penetrate glass, so it’s still possible to damage your skin while spending a bright winter day indoors.”
UVB Light in Winter
UVB rays are weaker in winter. But this doesn’t mean they’re harmless.
They are damaging year-round “especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice” – according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Why do you need protection from UV in winter?
Snow reflects a far greater percentage of the sun’s rays than water or sand. To make matters worse, snow reflects from all angles when you’re in hilly terrain – like on the slopes at Big White. So, essentially, you’re being hit by the damaging rays twice.
The effect of UV rays on your eyes is cumulative. That means your risk increases with the time you spend in the sunlight without protection over your lifetime. Given that children’s eyes are more susceptible to damage from UV and that they tend to spend more time outdoors, it’s essential that you protect your child(ren)’s eyes from a young age.
Check out this helpful article about the benefits of sunglasses by pediatrician Dr Karl Neumann, M.D., FAAP for more information about common myths about sunglasses and winter.
How to protect your eyes from UV?
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) advises that you can’t tell how much protection a pair of sunglasses provide based on their price, colour, or the darkness of the lenses.
That’s right, darker lenses don’t necessarily provide more protection from the sun.
CAO recommends buying sunglasses that:
- List the type and amount of protection;
- Block from 60 to 92% of visible light and UVA rays; and
- Block 95 to 99% of UVB rays.
Wrap-around style glasses are also advisable, since they protect your eyes from more angles.
In addition to the above, they go on to note that children’s sunglasses should be made from plastic or polycarbonate (not glass).
Children’s prescription glasses should also incorporate UV protection.
Do Polarized Lenses Work?
They sure do – for reducing glare. They don’t reduce UV light absorption.
You’ll need to check the label to be sure whether the polarized lenses protect your eyes from UV radiation.
Start with an eye exam
Exposure to UV rays over time can cause a number of eye conditions, including macular degeneration, cataracts and cancer. It’s estimated that 3.2 million Canadians live with cataracts – a condition that causes the normally clear lens of your eye to become cloudy and opaque.
Annual Eye Exams
Using advanced technologies, your optician at iSight can capture images of your retina to monitor damage over time.
It’s not just sunlight that can damage your eyes. You can read more about other unhealthy habits that affect your vision here.
That’s why annual eye exams are so important.
Imagine the wealth of information we can gain about your eye health over the course of your lifetime with annual eye exams starting from childhood!
Our technologies are non-invasive and comfortable. But still give us clear images of your retina.
This puts us in a great position to identify any damage and map its progression.