November 28, 2017

How Can I Keep My Eyes Safe This Winter in South Carolina?

The optometrists at Jackson Davenport, the premier vision center, located in Summerville, South Carolina, understand how vital it is to keep your eyes safe and healthy during the winter months For those who experience chronic issues of irritated or dry eyes, the winter months play havoc on your eyes. However, even if you don’t suffer from eye irritation during the rest of the year, the cold can bring unfamiliar problems that can have an effect on your eyesight.

The overcast skies and the lack of sunshine during the winter months fool us into believing that our eyes do not need to be shielded. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause your eyes to become more prone to degenerative eye diseases including cataracts, glaucoma, periocular skin cancer. The arrival of winter can be the result of powerful wind that causes the protective layer of the eyes, known as the tear film to evaporate. Fortunately, there are several simple methods you can use to fight against dry eyes and keep your eyesight healthy the entire winter. In this article, we will discuss the ways in which to keep your eyes protected and safe during the winter months.

Tips for Protecting Your Eyes During Winter

The arrival of winter can be the result of powerful wind that causes the protective layer of the eyes, the tear film, to evaporate. These conditions can cause excessive drying and irritation of the eyes which can become watery, red, and itchy. Many us are conscious about protecting our eyes from the summer glare. Many of us keep a pair of sunglasses close by when we are going outdoors. When fall and winter approach, it can be easy to forget the importance of eye protection.

Wear UV-A or UV-B Sunglasses. Your sunglasses are not just for summer. On days that tend to be a bit cloudier and/or have less sunlight, be aware that high energy UV rays can still penetrate the clouds. The UV rays reflect in the snow, causing vision issues like glare which can make your vision hazy. The UV damage could also potentially lead to more serious issues like cataracts or macular degeneration. Regardless of how sunny or cloudy it may appear, wear sunglasses every day to prevent UV-ray exposure.

Sunglasses will help to prevent snow blindness. Photokeratitis commonly referred to as “snow blindness,” can be extremely painful and irritating to your eyes. These brighter ultraviolet rays can cause a temporary blindness. Not only can you become “snow blind” without the presence of snow, it can also occur without sunlight. Photokeratitis can also be the result of man-made sources of UV radiation, such as a welder’s torch.

Wear a Hat. While many of us do not like having “hat hair,” but wearing a hat will not only protect your eyes but will also protect your skin by keeping UV rays off your face. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when you are outdoors, especially when outdoors for an extended period. Remember, the sun does not have to be shining for UV rays to be harmful. Hats with brims can prevent as much as 50% of the sun’s rays from reaching your eyes. Hats are particularly effective at blocking UV rays from penetrating the gap between the top of your sunglasses and your forehead. An ancillary benefit of a wide-brimmed hat is that it helps keep your eyes from drying out from the impacts of the breeze and shield your eyes from debris.

Keep Eye Drops Nearby. Your eyes have the likelihood of becoming dried out and irritated by cold, drying winds. Use moisturizing drops to keep them lubricated. Being indoors can also dry out your eyes as furnaces and heaters can remove moisture from the air.

Use Eye Cream: Using a good eye care cream that offers protection to the area around your eyes during winters. Eye cream can be applied throughout the day and even during the night.

Use Goggles. For those with a love of winter sports, make sure you wear UV-blocking goggles while participating in activities such as skiing or snowboarding to avoid having your eyes damaged by the sun. Aside from blocking UV rays, goggles will shield your eyes from ice and snow.

Purchase a Humidifier. A humidifier puts more moisture in the air. With more moisture in the air, tears evaporate more slowly, keeping your eyes more comfortable. Also, both furnaces and air conditioners decrease humidity in the air.

Healthy Eating Habits. Frigid weather sparks the need for comfort food, but eating a consistently balanced diet can be a driving force in keeping not only your eyes healthy, but the rest of your body regardless of the season. Take a multivitamin daily and eat foods that are rich in antioxidants. Bright orange fruits and vegetables get their color from beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, that helps promote healthy vision.

Practice Good Hygiene. Washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes can be a key way in preventing the transfer of the flu and eye disease such as pink eye, both of which are common during the winter months. When applying makeup, avoid fiber mascaras and loose face powders as these can get trapped in your eyes. Be careful not to share makeup or makeup brushes as it may cause the transfer of eye disease. The flu virus can survive over two hours on everyday things such as tables, clothes, and doors. Touching one of these contaminated items can expose the flu to your immune system very quickly.

Take a Break from Electronic Devices. Many of us spend most of their day staring at screens, whether it be their computer at work, phone, or TV. The chilly winter months usually result in us staying inside under a mound of blankets either watching TV or staring at our phones. Despite the comfort this may bring you, staring at electronic screens for a prolonged period can cause us to blink less. This results in our eyes not producing tears, which can lead to irritation and redness. Practice the rule of 20-20-20, where every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This simple trick can help drastically reduce digital eyestrain and keep your vision from rapidly deteriorating.

Vacations and Higher Altitudes. As we begin planning our winter vacations, it is also important to keep in mind the potential damage higher altitudes can cause your eyes. At higher altitudes, the air is considerably thinner, which allows for brighter radiation in the environment. UV radiation increases 3% for every 1,312 feet of altitude. At a height of 8,000 feet, the danger of UV radiation increases by more than 18%. Higher elevations can damage your eyes so it is important to shield them when hiking or enjoying the slopes.

The optometrists at Jackson Davenport wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Should you experience eye irritation during the winter months or would like more information regarding eye health, contact us to schedule an appointment. Together, we can keep your eyes healthy year-round.

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