Protect your eyes in the winter

Dr. Ivana Harcubová from the Ophthalmology Clinic in Pardubice answers your questions on our web side.

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FotoEveryone will connect the protection of eyes during winter sports with the usage of protective ski goggles while down-hill skiing. Let us start there. Is there any general advice on how to choose them?

When selecting ski goggles we should mainly pay attention to their UV filter, which eliminates dangerous ultraviolet radiation contained in sunlight and absorbed by the lens. Under the influence of this radiation the lens gradually gets clouded and over time cataract occurs.

Ultraviolet radiation further damages intraocular fluid, the vitreous, where small formations are created, or to be more precise vitreous opacity, which we perceive in front of the eye as moving structures.

Unprotected eyes may be affected by sunlight reflected off the snow, which can cause inflammation of the cornea, known as photokeratitis. It can be accompanied by strong eye pain and even temporary loss of vision. A relation between exposure to ultraviolet radiation and age-related macular degeneration has been proved. Therefore, to protect the eyes well, hiking glasses should have a higher protection degree due to the higher altitude than ski goggles used for recreational downhill skiing.

Another important factor when choosing ski goggles is the glass shade, which depends upon the skiing circumstances. For example, yellow enables better recognition of distant objects, especially in fog and snow. Also, how tightly the goggles fit our face and how comfortable they are must also be considered.

What should cross-country skiers bear in mind as far as sight is concerned?

Regarding the selection of protective goggles with UV filter, the same principles apply as those mentioned above. I would particularly like to warn recreational cross-country skiers that a lot of injuries occur from ski poles, for example eye perforation, or even a fracture of the eye socket.

What about other winter activities, such as ice-skating or sledging with children? Should we consider our sight and our children’s sight?

Certainly, these activities can very easily lead to eye injuries. They can be caused by children’s carelessness or when they play without adult supervision. These include blunt trauma caused by snowballs or even perforating eye injuries by skate blades.

The prognosis depends on the injured eye and which structures were damaged – the cornea, the lens, the retina, or even the optic nerve. What is also important is whether there was bleeding in the eye or whether the wound was infected. Undoubtedly, an individual’s reaction also plays an important role.

Let us move from leisure activities to daily routine activities. We are in town, we must go to work and it is freezing outside… let’s say the ‘typical dry frost’. Does it have an impact on our eyes?

Certainly, in this case, I would like to mention the conjunctiva subjective symptoms, especially the tearing. Significant fluctuations in temperatures cause changes in the quality of tear film, which may lead to annoying tearing. However, it is only a temporary condition.

Another typical winter situation: fog inversion, smog, continuous snowing... The eyes must suffer from such concentrations of pollutants …

The eye reacts to any pollutant by reddening, tearing and photophobia. Subjective symptoms may be pain in the eye, cutting, burning, a gritty feeling, or the feeling of a foreign body in the eye.While exposed to external conditions such as smog or snow, these symptoms are only temporary and usually subside in a few hours after the pollutants disappear. If they persist and annoy us, we can use the so-called artificial tears, which are available in pharmacies and can be applied as needed.


Do transitions from the outside frost to heated air-conditioned spaces and back again represent problems for the eyes?

Of course, especially in people with dry eye syndrome, which is today one of the most common eye diseases. It is a condition in which the quality and quantity of the tear film is disturbed. Among the most common symptoms of this disease include burning, cutting, a gritty feeling, or the feeling of a foreign body in the eye. It is mainly significant changes in temperature that worsen these symptoms. The usage of artificial tears can be recommended as help or prevention.

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