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Sunglasses protect the eyes from UV rays even in winter

woman wearing sunglasses in the winter

Winter brings dreary days and dropping temperatures, but don’t put your shades away. Wearing your sunglasses when it’s cold is just as important as shielding you from the sun’s rays when it’s warm. 

So keep those sunglasses around (or opt for a special winter pair) to keep your eyes comfortable and protected from the harsh winter elements.

Here are five reasons you should reach for your sunglasses in winter:

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1. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays in winter

One big question everyone asks: Should you wear sunglasses in winter? 

In short, yes. No matter the time of year, your eyes need protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays

However despite the health risks and warnings, Vision Impact Institute research finds that while 75 percent of Americans are concerned about UV safety, only 31 percent wear sunglasses when they step outside. 

For optimal eye sun-safety, the American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays and screen out 75% to 90% percent of visible light. 

2. Sunglasses should be worn for winter activities

Sunglasses aren’t just for sunny days at the beach or the slopes. In fact, everyone should be protecting their eyes in winter, too.  

For adults, sunglasses should be part of every daytime driving routine. Because a car’s windshield offers very little protection from UV rays and glare, protective eyewear is needed for safety. 

Outdoor leisure and exercise like skiing, running and hiking also call for proper eyewear to keep activities easy on the eyes, no matter your age. 

Ask your eye care professional for recommendations for the right sunglasses to fit your activities and lifestyle. 

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3. High-quality sunglasses fend off some eye diseases

Well-made sunglasses do more than just keep your eyes covered and comfortable. 

In fact, wearing a high-quality pair of sunglasses also can help prevent certain eye diseases related to the sun, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pinguecula and pterygia.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with many cases believed to be enhanced by UVB rays. 

Macular degeneration also can occur after unprotected sun exposure, along with pinguecula and pterygia, which cause yellowish and raised bumps on the whites of the eyes. 

So whether the weather is looking bright or snowy, be sure to bring your sunglasses with you at all times to keep your eyes clear and healthy. 

4. UV rays are intensified during winter 

If sunglasses are for blocking the sun, should they still be worn on dreary winter days? 

Yes. And in some cases, it’s even more important to wear sunglasses in cold weather.

While the sun sits lower in the sky in the winter months, the UV rays are just as intense. And in some cases, the colder months actually bring a risk of double exposure to UV rays.

Sunlight bounces off wet and icy surroundings, producing a glare and doubling our exposure to harmful UV rays. So if it’s wet or snowy outside, be sure to bring your polarized sunglasses to shield your eyes from the glare. 

5. Sunglasses and goggles prevent snow blindness

As mentioned above, water is one of the most reflective surfaces. And whether the sun is fully visible or not, being on or near snow or ice increases the amount of UV radiation you receive. 

Many winter sport activities also usually take place at high altitudes, where the sun’s UV rays are stronger. 

When combined, reflective surfaces and high altitudes double your risk of getting sunburned eyes. This temporary loss of vision is also known as “snow blindness” or photokeratitis. 

In addition to preventing snow blindness, wearing sunglasses from November through March can help reduce winter glare and vision-related headaches. So if you’re hitting the slopes, selecting appropriate sunglasses for skiing and snowboarding is essential. 

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How to find your perfect winter sunglasses 

Whether you ride a snowmobile regularly or not, it’s important to find the right sunglasses to suit your cold-weather needs. 

Schedule an eye exam and discuss your winter activities with your doctor. Your eye care professional will help you find the right eyewear to keep your peepers protected and comfortable through the winter months.

READ NEXT: How climate may affect eyes and vision

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