It’s February! This most misspelled month is the shortest of the year and the final month of meteorological winter. It’s also Low Vision Awareness Month and National Cancer Prevention Month.

Are you aware that protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays can impact your long-term eye health? One easy habit you can adopt to protect your healthy vision is to wear sunglasses every time you go outside.

Did you know that you should wear your sunglasses not only in summer — when the sun is at its highest and brightest — but 365 days a year? Yes, even when the sun isn’t very bright!

While that may seem counterintuitive, there is mounting evidence to support wearing sunglasses every day to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging UV light. Years of UV light exposure can contribute to conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration that cause low vision, and may even contribute to cancer in or around the eye.

Here are 5 reasons to wear your sunglasses in winter—and every day, all year.

  1. Cut the Glare

Though it’s not hot outside, it sure is bright! Have you noticed the sun’s glare seems more irritating to your eyes in the wintertime? Some refer to winter—when the sun sits lower in the sky than in summer—as “sun glare season.”

Because of the sun’s relative position to Earth during winter, the sun’s rays hit Earth at a lower angle, causing increased glare. In many cases, the sun’s glare can be blinding and very dangerous when driving early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It can also cause accidents on the ski slopes, with the sun reflecting off snow and decreasing visibility.

In sun-glare situations, a pair of polarized sunglasses will significantly increase your ability to see clearly despite the sun’s glare, so that you can navigate safely.

  1. Protect Eyes from UV Damage

Though the sun’s rays don’t feel as intense in the winter, its damaging UV rays are still present. The clock is always ticking on the cumulative damage that UV exposure can do to your eyes over a lifetime.

In winter, trees have dropped their leaves, so there isn’t as much shade to shield you from the sun’s rays. And because of the sun’s lower angle, your eyes get more direct sun exposure during the winter than in the summer.

A high-quality pair of sunglasses that completely block 100% of the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays are mandatory when you spend time outside in winter!

  1. Protect from Wind, Dust and Debris

When winter winds whip, they carry eye discomfort with them. The dry winter air whisks moisture out of your eyes, but sunglasses provide a protective barrier from drying wind. Contact lens wearers may be especially grateful for a good pair of wrap-around sunglasses that keep winter winds from drying out their eyes while lenses are in.

Sunglasses are the first line of defense against dust and other windblown particles that may get into your eyes and cause irritation or even painful corneal abrasions.

  1. Avoid Snow Blindness

When you’re outside during the winter, frozen surfaces including snow and ice act like mirrors, reflecting up to 85 percent of the sun’s damaging rays upward from the surface and into your eyes. After a long day outside playing in the snow, skiing, snowmobiling, or ice skating without sunglasses, that super-intense level of UV exposure can cause temporary snow blindness.

Snow blindness—called photokeratitis—occurs when the eyes suffer an overexposure to UV rays and get sunburned. The cornea swells, and it hurts! The short-term condition typically lasts for about a week. It can be managed with cold compresses, artificial tears, and over-the-counter pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

However, in the long-term, bouts of snow blindness increase the cumulative damage of the sun’s rays. This can lead to more serious eye conditions such as cataracts, which are accelerated by lifelong sun exposure.

Preventing sun exposure for your eyes is simple: Wear high-quality, UV-blocking sunglasses.

  1. Enhance Winter Visual Acuity

The intense winter glare from the sun’s rays bouncing off of snow, cement, a car’s hood, or any other horizontal surface can cause headaches, eyestrain, and decreased visual acuity. Your eyes need just the right amount of light to function at their best. When there’s not enough light to see well—you know it. And, when there’s too much light to see well—you know it. Too much light causes squinting because your pupil can’t constrict enough to block the excess light.

Sunglasses can help you find that sweet spot of just the right amount of light during the winter “sun glare season” to increase your visual comfort. Sunnies can help you navigate more safely in vehicles, on bikes, on skis, or while enjoying sporting activities. They protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them from UV damage, and let’s face it – they look great!

If you’re ready for a new health-enhancing pair of sunglasses to wear 365 days a year, visit our optical department. We will help you find a high-quality pair of UV-blocking sunglasses that look great on your unique face shape. Call us today—we look forward to seeing you!