Get UV Protected

Eyecare Charity warns Skiers and Snowboarders of Dangers on the Slopes!

The Eyecare Trust today (01 December) warned skiers and snowboarders of the risks of injuring their eyes on the slopes. Remarkably, the most common skiing injury is not to legs or arms – but to eyes!

It’s not flailing ski sticks that pose the threat either, but high levels of ultra-violet (UV) light that can enter and burn your eyes, even on cloudy days. UV levels are highest when the atmosphere is very clear – such as on the ski slopes and the problem is made worse by snow which reflects light.

Thankfully this type of eye damage – which is like sunburn of the eyes – is usually only temporary, but it can cause serious discomfort. In severe cases it can cause snow-blindness. So, to protect your eyes and ensure you can see clearly while skiing it's essential to use the right type of goggles or sunglasses.

Vision care charity the Eyecare Trust recommends spending time choosing the correct eyewear for the slopes. Expensive doesn’t always mean best so follow the Trust’s tips:

• Look for sunglasses or goggles that protect your eyes from UV light. The harmful rays to guard against are UVA and UVB. Short-term exposure to these can result in painful sunburn of the eyes called photokeratitis. Long-term, UV rays can damage your eyes permanently and lead to cataracts and other eye conditions. Seek out goggles and sunglasses that block at least 95 per cent of these rays.

• Remember that most summer sunglasses are unlikely to be suitable for skiing. Sunglasses for winter sports are generally made from more pliant materials that withstand the cold and resist breaking or shattering on impact.

• Choose the right lenses. Polycarbonate lenses cost slightly more but are highly resistant to shattering and filter out a large proportion of UV light without additional coatings.

• Peripheral vision is important for skiing. Ideally you should be able to see 180 degrees so look for goggles with large, wide lenses, or wrap- around sunglasses with the least amount of distortion you can find. Side shields, which may or may not be detachable, are often included so that wind and snow are kept away from the eye area.

• Select the right lens tint. Go for those that are yellow-orange or rose in hue. Sometimes, they are known as 'blue-blockers'. These colours will enhance contrast and will improve your vision, while also cutting out glare from the sun. Polarised lenses also filter out glare and reflected light.

• Make sure goggles fit. Take the time to adjust the strap on your head. If the strap doesn't adjust very well, or if the buckle is not secure, choose a different style. Some styles have softer, more rubbery buckles that won't dig into your scalp. Wider bands are more comfortable than narrow ones and foam inserts keep out wind, ice and dirt. The foam should be thick enough to help cushion your face if you fall but not so dense that it encourages fogging.

• If you need eyesight correction, you may find that it is not always practical or desirable to wear goggles over your normal glasses. Ask your optical practitioner about goggles or sunglasses with prescription lenses, but remember that some of the larger, wrap-around lens shapes in sunglasses may not be available with vision correction. In these cases, consider wearing contact lenses for eyesight correction so you can choose the goggles or sunglasses you prefer.

• A scratch-resistant coating will help your goggles and sunglasses to last longer. Always keep them in a soft pouch or lined case when you're not using them.

• Shop before you ski. If you leave it until you are at the resort to get your protective eyewear you will almost certainly end up paying more with less choice.

Finally, if you do suffer from snow blindness while skiing your eyes will probably be red, itchy and sensitive to light. Staying indoors and resting the eyes can help speed recovery, but if the symptoms persist you should see an eyecare professional as soon as possible.

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