Protecting Your Eyes from Snow Blindness Did you know that you can get a sunburn on the surface of your eyes? We take care to protect our eyes and skin from UV rays during the summer because we are spending more time in the sun. But your eyes can get sunburned in winter as well. Protecting your eyes from snow blindness is important in winter and year round. What Causes Snow Blindness? Snow blindness, which creates a sunburn on the surface of your eyes, is caused by the reflection of bright light. This type of sunburn affects the top layer of your cornea as well as the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the whites of the eyes and the inside of your eyelids). The condition called photokeratitis is commonly felt in winter but can happen at any time of year—and not just due to snow. The following prolonged exposure conditions can cause photokeratitis, or snow blindness.
Staring at the sun (even during a solar eclipse)
Symptoms of Snow Blindness Snow blindness can create several symptoms, including watery or gritty eyes, a burning sensation or temporary vision loss. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you may have been exposed to high levels of UV rays. Snow blindness symptoms typically appear after being outdoors for an extended period of time while hiking or mountain climbing at a high elevation. They can also occur while swimming or boating, spending time in a climate with strong sunlight or participating in snow sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. The reason that photokeratitis is most often referred to as snow blindness is because it is much more common in winter. The snow reflects up to 80% of the total UV rays that meet the ground. So, your eyes are exposed to twice as much light. To make matters worse, symptoms may not appear for several hours, so exposure can continue after the damage first begins. You may experience some of the following symptoms of snow blindness.
Sandy or gritty feeling in your eyes
Temporary vision loss
Swelling in the eyes or eyelids
Seeing halos or glare
Color changes in vision
Protecting Your Eyes from Snow Blindness The best thing you can do for your eyesight is to protect yourself before any damage can occur—even on cloudy days. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors and exposed to bright light, you’ll need to invest in a pair of ski goggles, snow goggles or sunglasses that filter out 100% of all UV rays. Polarized lenses and wrap-around sunglasses are also a great option to protect your eyes from potential light damage. How to Care for UV-Damaged Eyes If you have suffered UV ray damage and are experiencing the effects of snow blindness, there are a few things you can do to soothe your eyes.
Apply a wet cloth to your eyes, as the light exposure may have dried them out.
Use a humidifier in the room you are in.
Stay in a dark room.
Apply eyedrops to remoisturize your eyes.
Remove contact lenses.
Avoid rubbing your eyes.
Cover the affected eye (or eyes) with an eye patch to avoid additional exposure.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers.
Snow blindness will typically heal on its own after one or two days. However, if your symptoms become worse after the first day or they aren’t going away after the second day, please come see us right away. In the meantime, enjoy all of your time outdoors safely with the proper eye protection!
Call Dr. Fruchtman Today if you are experiencing any trouble with your eyes or vision!