Winter Eye Care Tips - Smart Vision Labs

Winter Eye Care Tips

‘Tis the season for eye health! Winter brings both the holidays and new situations to protect your eyes from. These winter eye care tips will make the cold weather a little easier on your eyes.

Hot and Cold

During winter, you likely use extra lotion to soothe your hands and carry a lip balm to prevent chapped lips. What do you do to treat dry eyes though? Dry eye can be an issue all year long but certain conditions relating to the cold months can make them more apparent. The air indoors is likely to be drier than in the warm months due to heaters or radiators running to keep you warm. The outdoor air can also be drier in the wintertime.

To counteract this, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to your home’s air flow. You may also benefit from lubricating eye drops. If you wear contact lenses, you might experience dry eyes. Your eye doctor should be able to recommend a product, either eye drops or a lens solution. This will keep your eyes moist and your contact lenses comfortable to wear.

Fun in the Sun… and Snow

Are you someone who looks forward to winter activities and sports? Whether you’re an avid skier or snowboarder or you just like to go sledding with family, one of the dangers of being outside isn’t even the snow (technically). The same UV rays from the sun that your eyes need protection from during the warm summer are still around during the cold winter. On the contrary, if there is snow on the ground, the amount of UV rays you’re exposed to can be as much as double as is present during the summer months.

How? The bright sun reflects off the white surface of the snow which magnifies the rays and makes them even stronger. Snow blindness occurs when your eyes are overloaded with UV rays, causing temporary loss of vision. If you’re planning a ski trip, part of your gear should include goggles to reflect the sun. Even if it’s just the driveway that needs shoveling (while you dream of a ski trip), putting on a pair of sunglasses will stop the snow blindness.

Sights on Flu Season

Does cold air really make you sick? Despite what your mother told you, the answer is no. It’s just a popular myth. However, more people really do get sick in winter due to a variety of factors. Dry air (both indoors and outdoors), poor ventilation in homes, and interacting with large groups of people (whether going back to school or enjoying holiday gatherings) all contribute to the prevalence of sickness in the wintertime.

What does this have to do with your eyes? Being careful regarding your eye hygiene is a vital step in preventing, getting, or giving the gift of the flu during the holidays. When in public, avoid touching or rubbing your eyes as this can spread germs which lead to illness. The flu virus can survive two hours (or more) on everyday surfaces like doorknobs and table tops. Touching one of these infected items before rubbing your eyes introduces the virus to your immune system very quickly.

Washing your hands often and being aware of when you are touching your eyes goes a long way toward avoiding illness. It’s worth noting you might not feel the need to rub your eyes often if they are properly moisturized.

These eye care tips can help make the winter months more comfortable for your eyes and help you to enjoy the season.

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Snow Blindness - What to do and how to prevent it - Smart Vision Labs

What to Know About Snow Blindness

Despite the name, snow blindness can happen even without the snow. The medical term for this condition is photokeratitis and it occurs when your eyes are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays, either from the sun or from a man-made source. The UV rays damage the eyes, often on a temporary basis, and cause pain and other symptoms.

Snow blindness is a particular form of photokeratitis that happens when the ultraviolet rays are reflected off ice or snow. Photokeratitis can also occur if the UV rays are reflected off water or sand, or if you stare the sun or watch a solar eclipse without wearing eye protection. If can even happen without sunlight when using a tanning bed or sun lamp without eye protection.

The danger with snow blindness is that you may not know you are irritating your eyes until after the damage has been done. The presence of UV rays does not cause an immediate reaction to the eyes but is more of a cumulative effect with prolonged exposure.

However, the symptoms of snow blindness are obvious and include: eye pain, blurry vision, tearing, swelling, sensitivity to light and sometimes temporary loss of vision. The severity of symptoms you may experience depends upon the length of time your eyes were exposed to the UV rays.

What Exactly Happens?
Think of snow blindness as having sunburn on your eyes. The UV rays affect the cornea, which is the thin, clear layer at the front of the eye. The conjunctiva, the cell layer inside the eyelids and the whites of the eyes are also very sensitive to prolonged exposure to these rays.

You probably already know what you skin feels like with sunburn. Now you can get a clearer picture of snow blindness when you understand the power of UV rays to burn these sensitive areas of the eyes.

How is it Treated?
If there is not too much damage, photokeratitis will heal by itself. Treatment is primarily designed to ease the pain and to prevent the eyes from further exposure to the UV rays. Pain relievers, either over-the-counter or prescribed by an eye doctor, may be taken. Eye drop antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Get out of the sun and put on a pair of sunglasses. Place a cold washcloth over your eyes. Using artificial tears is also helpful. After the eyes are irritated, and if there is no serious damage, the best course of treatment is to give the eyes a chance to heal by protecting them from further exposure.

How can it be Prevented?

Prevention and treatment of snow blindness follows the same principle: block the harmful UV rays. This is easily done with sunglasses or snow goggles. The best type of sunglasses is the wraparound variety. Glacier glasses with their darker lenses and side covers are also highly recommended. Be sure to wear eye protection even on overcast days since the UV rays are not stopped by clouds.

It you are taking certain medications, it may make you more susceptible than others to photokeratitis. These drugs can make you more vulnerable to UV damage: antibiotics, antideperessants, statins, antihistamines, and diabetes medications. If you concerned about whether you are at an increased risk for photokeratitis, ask your eye doctor.

Knowing how snow blindness occurs is the most important first step to preventing an eye condition that doesn’t ever have to happen.

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Sports Vision Care and Athletic Success

In baseball, hitters are said to have a ‘good eye’ when they can distinguish between balls and strikes better than average. A ‘good eye’, though, is associated more with good judgment and restraint than with excellent vision. Sports vision care is vital to athletic success. 

For all the physical traits valued in young athletes—strength, agility, speed, endurance, etc.—there is little focus on vision. And yet it appears self-evident that good vision is of utmost importance in any sport.

“Participation in sports and recreational activities continues to increase exponentially each year, and there has never been a greater opportunity or need for optometrists to meet the unique vision care needs of athletes.” –AOA Sport Vision Section 

baseball sunglasses sports vision care

The Sports & Vision Section of the American Optometric Association (AOA) states, “Vision, just like speed and strength, is an important component in how well you play your sport.” For baseball alone, the AOA lists 17 skills important for success: peripheral vision, depth perception, speed of focusing, color perception, and eye dominance, to name a few. Excellent depth perception, for example, is crucial for fielders judging the trajectory of balls hit high into the air.

Mobile optometry equipment can increase the ease and frequency of eye exams for athletes. At the highest levels of competition exercise regimens are planned down to the minute and nutrition measured down to the gram. Here, the ability to fine-tune a prescription month-to-month or week-to-week could prove essential.

The low cost of new handheld mobile optometry equipment expands opportunities not only for optometrists specializing in sports vision care but also the number of optometrists that can explore this specialty. Sports vision care is essential for athletes at the highest level of play as well as developing athletes at all levels.

In sports, there are winners and losers, but the advent of handheld, mobile optometry equipment is a win-win situation.

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Case Study: The Importance of School Vision Screenings

In the fall of 2015, Dr. Huy Tran and Maya Major of Smart Vision Labs screened 316 students over two days at Tuckahoe Commons Schools in Southampton, Long Island. The students participating in the school vision screening (most who had not gone to the eye doctor in the past year) ranged from ages 4 to 13, grades Pre-K to 8th. The first day was a vision screening of all students in the school, and students who saw under 20/30 for visual acuity were brought back the second day for vision exams with Dr. Tran.

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