Most of us tend to have the misconception that our eyes need protection from the sun’s glare only during summer months when the sun is harsh and hot.

When the weather turns cooler and sunshine becomes desirable, many of us do away with our sunglasses and expose our eyes to harmful radiation.

However, it is important to underline that sunglasses are not strictly a summer accessory. The less intense winter sun must not deceive you into believing that your eyes do not need protection any more.

According to I Rahumathullah, the managing director at Maui Jim, India, the threat of UV radiation exposure remains as severe in winter as in summers. In fact, it may be higher! While we stay away from the sun as much as we can during summers, in the winters, we like to spend more time under its warmth and end up exposing our eyes even more to the UV threat.

Thanks to greater awareness about the threat of UV radiation to the skin, sunscreen creams and lotions have become a must-have accessory for most people. However, do you know that that UV radiation poses as much a threat to the eyes, as it does to the skin?

Exposure to harmful Ultra Violet radiation emitted by the sun does not only cause skin irritation, sun burns or raise the risk of skin cancer; it is also associated with several eye-related problems ranging from temporary sunburns in the eye to more permanent damage to the cornea. Long- term problems such as Macular degeneration and cataracts are also associated with long-term sun exposure.

Photokeratitis is a painful condition caused by exposure to UV radiation. It is akin to having a sun-burned eye. In Photokeratitis also known as ultraviolet keratitis, damage is caused by high intensity UV radiation to the cornea of the eye and the conjunctiva. Most commonly, this condition occurs when the eye is exposed to sunlight reflected from surfaces of snow, water or sand. When caused by reflection of the sun’s radiation from ice or snow, this condition is also known as snow blindness.

In fact, in cases of extreme exposure to the sun, directly as well as through reflection from the snow, snow blindness may cause temporary vision loss usually lasting 24-48 hours. People involved in high altitude mountain climbing or activities like skiing are therefore specially advised to wear eye protection. Similarly if you are spending a lot of time near a water or sand surface such as a beach, eye protection is a must for you.

Other conditions associated with UV exposure include pingueculae and pterygia. They are caused by exposure to UVB radiation, and lead to non-cancerous but painful growths on the cornea and conjunctiva.

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