Winter Eye Protection

For thousands of years, natives of the arctic region combatted glare and snow blindness by fabricating narrow-slit goggles from bark, bone or hides. 

No gear is more vital to your health and safety when engaged in outdoor winter activities than adequate eye wear designed to protect your eyes from the damaging UV rays of the sun    both when dealing with direct sunlight from above and that reflected off a bright, white mantle of snow.  In fact, UV rays reflected off snow amount to about 80% of the rays one is exposed to from above – nearly doubling the amount bombarding us in winter than in summer.

Winter glare occurs when too much light enters your eyes, interfering with the eye’s ability to manage it. Distracting glare results from light being reflected when it moves from one optical medium to another (e.g. from air to glass). Discomforting glare may result from direct or reflected glare and can be caused by everyday, bright sunlight conditions (causing squinting and constriction of the pupil);  Disabling glare – also known as veiling glare, is more intense than discomforting glare and the high level of light produces a glare that can actually interfere with or block vision;  Disabling glare -light scattering when entering the eye reduces the sharpness of vision and raises the differential light threshold;  Blinding glare – light reflecting off of smooth, shiny surfaces such as water, sand or snow becomes polarized and produces blinding glare that can block vision to the extent that the wearer becomes visually compromised.

Glare can be reduced by wearing eye protection with an Anti-Reflective (AR) coating, Photochromic Transition lenses that adjust their level of tinting based on the amount of UV present, or polarized sunglasses that eliminate glare off of flat surfaces.

Snow Blindness (photokeratitis) is a painful eye condition caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light where the cornea of the eye becomes sunburned. Symptoms include pain, burning in the eyes, light sensitivity, swollen eyelids, watery eyes, temporary blurring or loss of  vision. However, snow blindness is easily treatable and temporary.

The affects of over-exposure to UV increases by 3% for every 1,312 feet in elevation (the air thins as elevation increases) and is most intense between 10 am and 4pm when the wintry sun is highest in the sky. Intense cold and dry air can result in photokeratitis at higher elevations, too.

Besides the UV threat, damage to the eyes can result from exposure to blowing dry and cold air, airborne dust/tiny ice particles, twigs and branches. 

Considerations for choosing the proper goggles include:

  • Proper fit – (some can fit over glasses);
  • 100% UV protection – (polycarbonate sunglass lenses)
  • Tinted lenses  – (darker tints for bright sunlight, light tints for better contrast, interchangeable lenses, photochromic);
  • Lens shape – Cylindrical/rounded across face but flat vertically (more distortion) or Spherical/rounded vertically and horizontally (less distortion);
  • Anti-fog – coatings/treatments or ventilation holes around perimeter of goggles.

Winter eye protection is critical for maintaining healthy vision and for mitigating the debilitating affects and injuries that can occur throughout the cold, snowy wintry season.

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