Got Snow? How to Protect Your Eyes

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As you gear up to hit the slopes this winter, you’ll be most focused on staying dry and warm, and for good reason – it’s cold out there. But there’s another part of your body that needs protection from the elements, and that’s your eyes. Exposure to UV rays – not to mention the glare of sun on snow – contributes to a host of eye conditions, among them:

  • Cataracts: There is new research showing that exposure to UV rays contributes to the development of cataracts, which are cloudy areas on the lens of the eye.
  • Photokeratitis: Bright sunlight can actually burn the surface of the eye, causing this painful condition, which also increases your risk for cataracts.
  • Macular degeneration: The leading cause of blindness after age 65, macular degeneration occurs when the macula at the back of the eye deteriorates, causing blurry vision. While cataracts can be removed surgically, there is no way to reverse age-related macular degeneration.
  • Skin cancer: Unprotected sun exposure leaves you vulnerable to skin cancer, including cancer of the skin around your eyes, including the eyelids.

So How Best to Protect Those Peepers?

Wear sunglasses at all times when outdoors in the winter sun. And make sure the shades you choose are certified to block 100 percent of UV rays, A, B and C. When skiing or snowboarding, you can get additional protection from goggles, which have been designed to resist impact, withstand fogging, and stay on even when you’re moving fast.

A few more features to keep in mind:

VLT: Lighter lenses (yellow, amber, and green) have a higher VLT (visible light transmission) than darker lenses (brown and gray), which means they allow more light to reach your eye. Most experts recommend wearing darker lenses on bright days and lighter lenses when it’s cloudy and dim.

Polarized lenses: These lenses have polarizing filter that reduces glare from water and snow.

Mirrored lenses: Thanks to a coating on the outside of the lens, mirrored lenses reflect more light than non-mirrored lenses.

For more detailed buying tips, see these REI guides to purchasing goggles and sunglasses.

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