Despite the holidays being over, winter is in full swing, and here in Kelowna we are hitting the slopes and venturing out in the snow. We wear scarves, gloves, and coats to keep us warm during winter activities, but what are we doing to protect our eyes?

As a B.C. Doctor of Optometry, I see numerous patients who come in with eye health issues during this time of year, which could have been prevented with the proper eye protection. Here are some helpful tips to keep you and your family’s eyes healthy and safe through the winter:

Wear your sunglasses

Most people believe that it’s most important to wear sunglasses in the summer, but in fact, our eyes are exposed to the same amount of UV-A and UV-B rays throughout the winter.

Being at the high altitude of a mountain means you are also exposed to stronger UV rays, and potential harmful reflections bouncing off the snow.

Overexposure to UV rays has been linked to a variety of problems, including damage to the cornea, cataracts and degeneration of the retina. These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing, temporary vision loss and, in rare instances, blindness.

Your eyelids are also highly susceptible to skin cancer without proper sun protection. To help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, select quality sunglasses that are marked with a 100 per cent UV-A/UV-B protection sticker.

If sunglasses are not marked, ask your optometrist to verify they meet these requirements.

Wear goggles when playing outdoor sports

If you enjoy winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing, make sure you wear a quality pair of goggles that protect your eyes from debris and UV exposure.

Certain goggle tints can enhance your vision in a variety of outdoor conditions.

Excessive wind and UV exposure can cause the white part of the eye to become irritated, leading to permanent yellow discolouration (pinguecula).

When buying goggles, look for polarized lenses that reduce glare and an aligned fit to your face. If you normally wear prescription eyewear, talk to your optometrist about fitting your goggles with prescription lenses.

Ward off of dry eye

We all know dry winters can take a toll on our skin, but did you also know they can impact our eyes?

The cold air naturally holds less humidity, which makes it more difficult for our lacrimal gland to counteract the environment and produce enough quality tears.

Although dry eye may start as a mild discomfort, it is important to seek treatment before progressive damage occurs and it becomes more difficult to treat. Symptoms range from excessively watery eyes and burning, to blurry vision and the desire to close your eyes for relief.

If you suffer from dry eyes, it is important to use a humidifier in your house and make sure the vents in your car do not blow directly at your face.

It is important to book an eye exam with your optometrist for a proper diagnosis because there are many factors that can cause dry eye.

Once the etiology has been determined, dry eye can be effectively managed.

If you suffer from dry eye, schedule a consultation this new year because there have been recent advancements to ocular surface disease treatment and diagnosis.

Dr. Devin Almond is an optometrist at Nuvue Optometry. To book an appointment with an optometrist near you, visit bc.doctorsofoptometry.ca.

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