Snow blindness is a painful, temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays that usually resolves itself within 24-48 hours. Snow blindness is also called “photokeratitis”. It is caused by a sunburned cornea. Don’t be frightened by the name of this issue. It’s totally preventable. The term has become commonplace because snow is highly reflective of UV radiation (it can reflect more than 80 percent of the rays that fall upon it). Many winter sports also take place where the sun’s UV rays are stronger, at higher altitudes. Although it is called “snow blindness,” snow is not always the cause. The sun’s UV rays also reflect off of water and white sand, and are prevalent in tanning beds which can cause the same effect.
If you have the following symptoms, you could be experiencing snow blindness:
- A gritty feeling in the eye or a sensation that something is in your eye
- Glare and halos around lights
- Red eyes
- Eye pain
- Burning eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyes/eyelids
Photokeratitis usually resolves itself within a few days. If you have “snow blindness”, but are still experiencing symptoms after a few days, be sure to see your Midwest Eye Consultants optometrist. If you wear contact lenses, they should be immediately removed and not worn again until your eyes feel normal. Stay out of the sun or be sure to wear sunglasses while you are suffering from snow blindness. Other solutions include artificial tears, over-the-counter pain relievers, using a cool, damp wash cloth on your closed eyelids and refraining from rubbing your eyes.
We can’t emphasize enough UV-blocking sunglasses are important to wear whenever you are outside and even more so when you plan to be outdoors for an extended period of time. If you are unsure what type of sunglasses to buy, visit us and we will help you out!
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