Snow blindness is a painful, temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The condition typically occurs at high altitudes on highly reflective snow fields while snowboarding in the winter, as well as in the absence of snow. Artificial sources like sun tanning beds, a welder’s flash, photographic flood lamps, lightning, electric sparks can also cause snow blindness. It is less prevalent with a solar eclipse. Water and white sand are also highly reflective of the sun’s UV rays and can increase the risk of snow blindness.
How do I know I have snow blindness?
After a prolonged outdoor adventure, you might begin to feel one or more of the following symptoms:
- Eye pain
- Burning eyes
- Red eyes
- A gritty feeling
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Swollen eyes and/or eyelids
- Glare and halos around lights
Vision loss from snow blindness is temporary and can be significantly impaired, making it unsafe to drive.
To relieve pain or discomfort from snow blindness, stay indoors and wear sunglasses. Keep your eyes well-moistened with artificial tears. Choose preservative-free formulations for mild dry eyes to prevent a sensitivity reaction from preservatives or worsened blurred vision from drops that are too thick. For additional relief, use over-the-counter pain relievers and place a cool, dampened washcloth over your closed eyelids. Do not rub your eyes.
Avoid snow blindness by wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays whenever you are outdoors during daylight. For skiing, snowboarding, water sports, or anytime you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time, look for sunglasses, snow goggles or sports goggles that have side shields or a soft rubber flange that completely block sunlight from striking the front of your eyes from the sides, above and below.
Snow blindness typically heals on its own, after 24-48 hours. If your symptoms are worsening after the first day or aren’t going away after the second day, you should come see us at Vista.
Remember, protect your eyes from harmful UV rays from the sun … get your protective sunglasses and goggles today.