Time to start thinking about sunglasses? Is it because imagining wearing sunglasses on a sunny beach makes us feel warmer in sub-zero temperatures? Partially, but more importantly, wearing sunglasses in the winter is just as important as wearing them in the summer. UV light from the sun can damage your eyes by causing cataracts to form and can even cause vision loss as UV light exposure can lead to macular degeneration. It’s easy to remember sunglasses when the sun is shining on an 80 degree day, but UV light is just as damaging when it’s -5 and we’re surrounded by snow. In fact, UV light can be even more intense in the winter than during the summer. Our normal surroundings generally reflect about 6% of the sun’s light. Snow, however, reflects 95% of the sun’s light. Anyone who’s braved the elements on a cold, sunny day has experienced how intense this reflection can be and likely reached for their sunglasses. But what about cloudy days? Do you really need to wear sunglasses when it’s been 5 days since you’ve seen the sun? The UV index may not be as intense, but it isn’t zero. Today, the UV index in Three Rivers is very close to what the UV index in Miami was yesterday.
Sunglasses will protect your eyes from more than just sun. The wind can damage your eyes by causing irritation, dryness, and even permanent damage like a pterygium. Also, a blast of snow to the face when the wind changes direction makes it pretty hard to see where the snow blower is going. Wearing a pair of sunglasses when you’re outside in the cold this weekend-even it’s for a brief driveway cleaning-will protect your eyes from UV and wind exposure. They might even make it easier to imagine that warm, sunny beach while your shoveling.
Dr. Andrew Bolles