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Home » What's New » Don’t Let Snow Blindness Ruin Your Winter Vacation

Don’t Let Snow Blindness Ruin Your Winter Vacation

While most people have sunglasses high on their packing list for a tropical vacation, many people don’t consider it as much of a priority for colder climate getaways. But they should, and here’s why:

Wintertime vacations often include activities that involve snow and ice and in general, conditions that can lead to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. Without proper eye protection, this can lead to photokeratitis or snow blindness, a condition that results in pain and temporary vision loss.

Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on the eye which occurs when the eye is exposed to invisible ultraviolet or UV rays, from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps or tanning beds. It mainly affects the cornea, the curved outermost surface of the eye that plays a role in your ability to focus, and the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It causes inflammation, pain and sometimes a temporary loss of vision.

Despite its name, snow blindness doesn’t occur exclusively in the snow. It can happen in any environment in which UV rays are strongly reflected including water, sand or ice as well. It is also more common in high altitudes where the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger and the air is thinner, which is why skiing and mountain climbing can even be more risky than summertime activities on a lower altitude. Snow and ice reflect more UV light than almost any other surface, but you don’t always feel or notice the strong glare, making snow blindness a silent winter hazard that can only be prevented by awareness.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

Unfortunately, just like any sunburn, you usually don’t notice the symptoms of snow blindness until the damage has already been done. Symptoms usually occur several hours after the activity, so one may not realize that they were caused from snow blindness.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Grittiness
  • Tearing
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Glare or Halos
  • Blurry Vision
  • Watery Eyes
  • Swollen Eyes or Eyelids
  • Headaches
  • Temporary Vision Loss

Any vision loss that does occur will usually return with in a day or two, but the greater the exposure to the UV rays, the worse the damage that is done.

How Is Snow Blindness Treated?

There is little to do to treat photokeratitis. Just like a sunburn elsewhere on the body, it eventually heals on its own. There are however, some steps you can take to find relief from the symptoms which include:

  • Stay indoors, in a dark area until the eyes become less sensitive.
  • Wear sunglasses if it helps.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Remove contact lenses.
  • Apply preservative-free artificial tears to add moisture.
  • Use a cold compress to soothe your eyes.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relief or antibiotic eye drops according to your eye doctor’s advice.

If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24 -48 hours, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Tips to Prevent Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is actually very preventable and all it takes is a good pair of sunglasses or sports goggles. Any time you are outside, rain or shine, you should wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses. That’s right, the sun’s powerful UV rays can even penetrate clouds on an overcast day.

If you are involved in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing or water activities consider a pair of wrap-around sunglasses or sports goggles with shields to prevent the rays from entering from above and through the sides. Wearing a hat or helmet with a brim will also help to increase protection.

Whether you are going North, South or somewhere in between, make sure to pack your shades and protect your eyes so you have an eye-safe, fun and enjoyable vacation.

Tear Film Evaluation

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In the interest of public health and safety, our offices are currently limiting patient access to basic red-eye care with on-call doctors, scheduled follow-up visits, and prescription pickup only.

No general office hours are available until further notice, and office admittance is strictly prohibited without an appointment.

If this is an emergency, please visit your nearest hospital emergency room immediately.

Until we are able to resume normal operations, we are happy to answer questions, schedule a red-eye appointment with an on-call doctor, and place orders for additional contact lenses (with free home shipping).

Please call an office number or email vscallcenter@vs-2020.com for assistance.

Rest assured that we are still here for you, and will resume normal operations as soon as it becomes safe and permissible to do so.

Your health is our top priority.

Thank you for your understanding and please stay healthy and safe during these difficult times.

*Your Vision Source Team*

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In the interest of public health and safety, our offices are currently limiting patient access to basic red-eye care with on-call doctors, scheduled follow-up visits, and prescription pickup only.

No general office hours are available until further notice, and office admittance is strictly prohibited without an appointment.

If this is an emergency, please visit your nearest hospital emergency room immediately.

Until we are able to resume normal operations, we are happy to answer questions, schedule a red-eye appointment with an on-call doctor, and place orders for additional contact lenses (with free home shipping).

Please call an office number or email vscallcenter@vs-2020.com for assistance.

Rest assured that we are still here for you, and will resume normal operations as soon as it becomes safe and permissible to do so.

Your health is our top priority.

Thank you for your understanding and please stay healthy and safe during these difficult times.

*Your Vision Source Team*