The winter months or overcast days might be when you’re least expecting to need eye protection. Don’t make the same mistake as Anderson Cooper, who went temporarily blind after recently spending an extended period of time on the water without sunglasses.

Dr. Natasha Herz, Ophthalmologist at Washington Adventist Hospital, explains that what happened to Cooper is most likely a retinal burn or solar keratitis, a burn to the surface of the eye. This type of injury usually only happens if a person is staring straight into the sun or looking at a solar eclipse, but in this case it was from UV rays bouncing off the water. Ice and snow can cause similar light reflections that can harm the eyes.

Even though it’s not very common, there’s still cause for concern. Whether you’re on the water or the snow, sunglasses can help protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. It’s important to note that not all sunglasses are alike. Those that are fashionable might not be sight savers. “Sunglasses should have UVA and UVB protection,” said Dr. Herz. “The UVB protection is key.”

As a result of the retinal burn, Cooper experienced 36 hours of blindness. Dr. Herz explains that solar keratitis usually heals within a few days and can be treated with eye lubrication and a patch. For a retinal burn, however, there is no treatment. It’s best to monitor the eye, which should show signs of improvement within three to six months.

Sun-damaged eyes can lead to other eye issues like cataracts, or cloudy areas that develop on the lens inside the eye.

“By not wearing sunglasses, you put yourself at risk for early onset cataracts,” said Dr. Herz. If you are getting a cataract that is impairing your vision and interfering with your life, Dr. Herz recommends an ocular implant, which offers both UVA and UVB protection. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

Click here – Click here for Dr. Herz’s full interview with WTOP Radio, and remember, sport those sunglasses this winter and help save your sight! Share with us how you plan to practice eye safety.