Scotland is renowned for its harsh winters, typified by very low temperatures and high, blustery winds accompanied by large snowfalls. Beautiful and scenic it may be, but to enjoy it requires that you look after your eyes well. During the bright summer months you often pay more attention to eye care than at any other time of the year, protecting your vision from the glare of the sun with sunglasses. It is often overlooked, however, that the winter months actually provide as many adverse conditions for your eyes as any other time of the year with the cold temperatures and harsh winds causing multiple optical issues.
The effect of a cold wind and low temperatures on the eye can cause multiple problems. Often the eyes start to feel itchy and irritable and will redden, feeling inflamed and sore. If left untreated at this time further problems can develop, such as blurred vision or a temporary loss of sight, as well as sensitivity to light. Windburn is an extremely uncomfortable eye problem and although the eye has natural defences such as tearing and squinting, it is not particularly effective if you are outdoors and open to the elements for long periods. Many people working outdoors or those who are enjoying the winter weather skiing in Scotland are at a higher risk of eye damage. Exposure to ultraviolet light that has been reflected from the snow can damage the surface of the eye causing great discomfort and sensitivity. In extreme exposure, if the eyes do not have protection, there have been cases where the cornea has actually frozen.
Contact lens wearers can also suffer from dry eyes as a result of harsh weather conditions, although through innovative lenses such as Focus Dailies that feature an exclusive blink-activated moisture technology, such conditions are fast becoming obsolete. As a contact lens sits in your eye it will remain at body temperature irrespective of the weather conditions, so drying out should not be an issue, although if the eye itself feels sore you can always use lubricating drops to provide relief. Focus Dailies allow a large amount of oxygen to the cornea and, therefore, the eye requires fewer tears to remain hydrated, counteracting the harsh elements of the environment and eliminating deposit build up that can cause irritation or itchiness.
One of the most important winter eye care practices is to ensure that you wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from excessive wind, cold and the harsh glare of the sun reflecting off the snow. Sunglasses should have UVA and UVB protection and should be a permanent fixture for those people spending long hours outside during the winter.
Your eyes are arguably the most important part of your body as they are your windows to the world. It is easy to take your sight for granted and overlook the effect that varying weather conditions may have on your long term vision. By taking care of your eyes now, you will be safeguarding your sight for the future.