What Is Snow Blindness & How Can You Prevent It? – University of Utah Health Care

January 25th, 2020 1:46 am

Jan 20, 2020 7:00 AM

Author: Moran Eye Center

Theres a reason you squint in bright sunlight. Your eyes are begging for protection against the glare of ultraviolet (UV) rays. But in situations where the suns rays intensify as they reflect off of snow, water, or sand, that begging might turn into screaming if you forget your UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles, because yesyour eyes can get sunburned.

Known generally as snow blindness and technically as photokeratitis (photo for light and keratitis inflammation of the cornea), sunburned eyes can sneak up on you. As with sunburned skin, by the time you notice the symptoms of snow blindness, youve already been out in the sun too long.

Symptoms include:

Your eyes and eyelids may swell, and you could get a headache.

You may not even experience the symptoms until several hours after the burn occurs, according to John A. Moran Eye Center Ophthalmologist Jean Tabin, MD. Luckily, they are temporary and should subside in a day or two.

If you suffer snow blindness, the best thing to do is give your eyes a rest. Stay indoors and wear sunglasses to reduce the amount of light exposure. If you wear contacts, take them out. Use preservative-free artificial tears to keep your eyes moistthink of it like using aloe vera for sunburn on your skin. Whatever you do, dont rub your eyes. This will only worsen the irritation.

If symptoms are severe, it may be best to see an ophthalmologist. You dont want to risk long-term damage.

The best way to protect against snow blindness is to protect your eyes with sunglasses. It doesnt necessarily matter how dark they are, as long as they block 99 percent of the suns UV rays. Wear them, even on overcast days, as UV rays can penetrate clouds.

Bigger ones are better in the winter, notes Tabin. Wearing goggles or sunglasses that wrap around will give you the most protection.

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What Is Snow Blindness & How Can You Prevent It? - University of Utah Health Care

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