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Posted on 12-13-2016

It Snow Laughing Matter: How to Prevent Snow BlindnessSnowBlind

It sounds like a term made up by tired parents who no longer want to play outside, but “snow blindness” is a real thing.  According to the website, All About Vision, to become snowblindness is “…a painful temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays.”  It even has a fancier, less fictional, sounding name:  photokeratitis.  

So, what are the symptoms of snow blindness?  

  • Pain and/or burning in the eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Eyes feeling “gritty”
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Swelling of the eyes or eyelids
  • Headache
  • Halos appearing around lights 
  • Temporary vision loss

(The vision loss associated with snow blindness usually goes away within 23 to 48 hours.  Even if you’re not completed without vision, it may be unsafe to drive or operate heavy machinery, and at times, your color vision can be affected, too.)

Unfortunately, as with a sunburn (and that’s essentially what this is—you’ve sunburned your eyes), the symptoms of snow blindness usually get worse AFTER exposure, so it’s important to prevent the condition if at all possible.  Fortunately, prevention isn’t rocket science.  Wear sunglasses.  Now, these should be good quality sunglasses, the kind that block 100% of UV rays, and you should wear them even if it isn’t “sunny” (much like with sunburn, you can go snowblind when it’s cloudy), but it really is as simple as popping on a pair of shades before you venture outdoors.  If you’re into snow sports, you might invest in a pair goggles with side shields that will completely block sunlight from your eyes.  (And if you need these to be prescription, give us a shout.  We can hook you up.)

If you DO go sunblind, despite all our well-meant advice, you’ll need to give the symptoms time to resolve themselves, but you can do your best to keep as comfortable as possible while your eyes heal:

  • Do not wear contacts until your eyes are completely healed
  • Stay inside 
  • Wear sunglasses (even inside)
  • Use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist
  • Over the counter pain relievers may help reduce your pain level
  • Use a cool, damp compress over your eyes for temporary relief
  • Do not rub your eyes

So, even though summer is out the door, don’t forget your sunglasses.  Nothing it going to put a damper on that ski trip like not being able to see for a couple days.  As always, if you have any questions about protecting your eyes during the winter (or at any other time), please feel free to contact us!

Source: allaboutvision.com

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