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Should I Wear Sunglasses in the Winter?

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A woman sitting outside at a table and drinking a cup of coffee. She is wearing a winter jacket, hat, and sunglasses

Most of us instinctively wear sunglasses outside in the sun because they provide comfort. But there are some convincing reasons to wear sunglasses beyond simply providing comfort. And it’s important to note that you should wear sunglasses outside in the winter too, not just the sunny summer.

The sun may not get as high and hot in the sky during the winter months but it still produces harmful UV radiation that can damage our eyes and the sensitive surrounding tissue. Not to mention the potential for intense glare off snow-covered surfaces that could benefit from a polarized or anti-glare lens.

If you already wear prescription glasses, you may be tempted to “tough it out” without sunglasses to maintain clear vision. But prescription sunglasses may be a good idea if you’re spending time outside after realizing the risk UV radiation poses to your vision and eye health.

Importance of Wearing Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses is crucial for several reasons. They protect against harmful UV rays which can cause serious eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Sunglasses also help to shield your eyes from environmental elements like dust and wind. They can reduce glare and improve comfort and visual clarity, particularly when driving or participating in outdoor activities.

Lastly, sunglasses can aid in preventing skin cancer by covering the delicate skin around your eyes, a common area for skin cancer to develop.

So, it’s not just about style. Wearing sunglasses is a simple yet effective way to safeguard your eye health and vision.

Reasons to Wear Sunglasses in the Winter

You should wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside—winter, summer, or any season in between. Even on a cloudy or overcast winter day, UV rays can still penetrate clouds and reach the ground. You may not be able to wear a dark lens on an overcast day, but you should still wear some form of eyewear that protects against UVA and UVB rays.

There are several great reasons to wear your sunglasses outside in the winter.

Protection from UV Radiation

When deciding on a pair of sunglasses, you need to consider whether you’re getting prescription lenses or perhaps an anti-glare coating on the lenses. But you’ll also want to consider the actual protection from the sun they provide.

Choose sunglasses that say one of the following:

  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • 100% UV 400 protection

Sunglasses with these claims should provide optimal protection against harmful UV rays.

Comfort While Driving

Maybe you’ve been driving on a cold winter day with the sun hanging just above hills in the distance. Everything’s going great until that sunlight hits the snow along the road at just the right angle. Next thing you know, you’re tearing up and can barely see from the glare. Sunglasses can help prevent dangerous situations and increase your comfort while driving.

A couple standing together outside in the snow, wearing winter jackets, hats, and sunglasses

Snow Blindness Prevention

Snow blindness is a form of photokeratitis. It’s a painful eye condition caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. It’s similar to a sunburn, except it occurs on the surface of the eye—specifically, the cornea and conjunctiva.

Prevention is key when it comes to snow blindness. Wearing sunglasses or goggles that block 100% of UV rays whenever you’re in bright environments, especially those with snow, is crucial.

Remember, while snow blindness is an acute condition and often resolves within a few days, repeated exposure to intense UV light can lead to long-term damage, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Eye Disease Risk Reduction

Sunglasses play a vital role in the preservation of your eye health. They protect against harmful UV rays emitted by the sun, which can cause eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration, as we learned above.

Wearing sunglasses is an effective preventive measure to reduce the risk of various eye problems later in life. Make sure to wear them daily, especially in bright sunlight or environments with high UV reflectivity.

Lens Choice Matters

You can probably figure it out by now, but simply finding the darkest pair of sunglasses won’t necessarily protect your eyes apart from providing more comfort outside. In addition to looking for 100% UV protection, you’ll also want to consider some other potential lens coatings that may be beneficial:

  • Polarization
  • Anti-glare coatings
  • Anti-scratch coatings
  • Anti-fog coatings

Get a New Pair of Sunglasses This Winter

The importance of sunglasses as a primary means of protection against sun damage is clear, but we know that not all sunglasses are made equal. It’s important to emphasize purchasing good quality frames and lenses so that your eyes get the protection they need.

Whether you’re looking for a pair of sunglasses or want lenses made with your prescription, our team can help. Contact us or stop by and see us today at Precision Eye Care.

Written by Dr. Judy Chan

Dr. Chan received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California San Diego in 1986 and her Doctor of Optometry degree in 1990 from Pacific University College of Optometry. To broaden her skills, she also completed a year of residency training, specializing in geriatrics and ocular diseases at the Veterans Hospital in Portland. After practicing in the Portland/Vancouver area for nearly 7 years, Dr. Chan purchased her first clinic in Battle Ground, Washington. She found private practice very fulfilling and promptly acquired her second office in 1999.

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