Protecting Your Eyes From Snow Blindness
Snowfall in the Fall?
This year we are experiencing early snowfall in the mountains of NC and many of you are heading West to have fun.
We take many precautions to avoid sunburn on our skin, face, and lips, but have you ever thought about your eyes?
Have your eyes ever felt gritty and watery after an outdoor adventure? Maybe you felt a burning sensation and suffered temporary vision loss?
If this sounds familiar to you, you may have been exposed to high levels of UV rays from light reflections while boating, hiking at high elevation, or participating in snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. This condition, formally called photokeratitis , is particularly common in winter, and you might have heard of it by the name “snow blindness.”
What causes Snow Blindness?
Snow Blindness occurs when your eyes are exposed to ultraviolet light for an extended period of time, causing sunburn. It most commonly occurs in snowy areas because snow reflects 80% of UV rays.* Snow blindness can also occur in highly reflective environments with water or white sand.
In addition to natural UV rays, man-made sources of ultraviolet radiation can cause snow blindness. Typically, man-made UV rays only damage your eyes when the proper eyewear is not being worn. This can happen when working with a welder’s torch or using tanning booths or sunlamps.
Why Snow Blindness?
Photokeratitis is essentially getting *a sunburn *on the surface of your eye. This can happen in most climates with strong sunlight, particularly when there are reflective surfaces such as white sand, water, or especially snow. You could also get it without any sun at all, from man-made sources of light like welding torches!
The reason photokeratitis is so much more common in winter is that the snow reflects up to 80 percent of the UV rays that hit the ground, so your eyes get almost a double dose of sunlight. The high altitude is a factor as well. One of the dangerous things about photokeratitis is that, like a normal sunburn, it can take hours before the symptoms appear. As a result, you might keep exposing your eyes to harmful UV rays even after the damage has begun, making the condition more severe.
How do I prevent snow blindness?
- Anytime you are outside, you should wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays.
- Remember, UV rays can penetrate clouds, so sunglasses are required even on cloudy days.
- Always wear snow goggles when skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses when you plan to be on or near water for extended periods of time.
- Ensure you have eye shields to wear in tanning beds and booths. Never tan without eye shields.
- Use the recommended safety eyewear for your job if you are working with harmful light.
We’re Here For You
Snow blindness typically heals on its own after a day or two, but if your symptoms are worsening after the first day or aren’t going away after the second day, you should come see us immediately. We hope you have a wonderful time this ski season, but don’t forget to protect your vision!
Call us at 704-821-5009 to get a n eye exam!