How do ultraviolet rays damage your eyes?

Winter brings snow and lots of it for anyone living in the Rocky Mountains.  As we get outside to enjoy the fresh powder and bright sunshine we need to remember that UV rays may damage our eyes.

Prolonged exposure to UV light can also accelerate the aging process – that means wrinkles! In addition to harmless aging affects, the eye can experience serious conditions from too much UV exposure.  Common eye conditions that are sometimes brought on by sunlight’s damaging rays are conditions like macular degeneration, and even cataracts.

Ultraviolet rays, especially UVA, are intense during all daylight hours throughout the year. Air temperatures do not affect the intensity of these rays.

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What amount of exposure to UV rays can cause damage?

At higher altitude the energy in the sun’s rays are brighter and more intense than other types of light rays such infrared rays and visible light. ,These UV rays are especially dangerous to living organisms as they can lead to cell damage or actual changes in genetic code. Damage can occur over time or in as little as 8 to 24 hours after exposure to significant amounts of UV radiation when proper sun protection is not used.

Never, ever look directly at the sun.  Most adults know this already, but it is important to remind your children of this. Such exposure is called solar maculopathy or sun-gazing.  It only takes about 20 seconds for damage to occur

How you can protect your eyes

Hats and sunglasses are the obviousand easiest way to get protection from UV rays.  Even in the winter months you should be wearing sunglasses for protection. Make sure those sunglasses are clearly labeled as offering UV protection.

People who engage in winter activities outside at high altitudes such assnow skiers, and snowboarders much be informed and aware that they are at a higher risk for damage from UV rays. Crisp snow reflects about 80 percent of UV radiation, and UV beams can reflect and bounce back off of bright snow, multiplying the effect. Make sure your snow googles have UV protection.  Almost all of them do today, but it’s a good idea to check the label just in case – especially if you are wearing a budget brand.

UV damage and blindness

While a most types of UV damage is avoidable with proper eye protection, there are some eye conditions caused by sunlight’s damaging rays that can cause permanent blindness.

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 Exposure to UV while driving in Winter

Most people know it is unsafe to drive and text or talk on their cell phone.  And everyone knows how critical it is to buckle up behind the wheel.  But did you know that sunglasses are an essential piece of safety equipment in your car, especially in the winter?

Due to the angle of the earth’s rotation, the sunshine beams into your windshield at a more direct angle in the winter.  Your eyes are subjected to a greater amount of UV damage in the winter when you are driving than in the summer months. So make sure to have a good, quality pair of UV rated sunglasses in your car.  And take it one step further!  Put the on and wear them each time you drive. Make it a habit and your eye will thank you for it.

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