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Snow Blindness: The Top 3 Things you Should Know

Woman walking in the snow1. What is Snow Blindness?
Photokeratitis. That’s the medical term for Snow Blindness. Simply put, Snow Blindness is basically a sunburned cornea (or front part of the eye). This “sunburn” is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and can be painful and result in temporary vision loss.

2. What are the Symptoms?
Similar to sunburned skin, the symptoms of Snow Blindness occur later on, after the damage is already done. Luckily, the damage isn’t permanent, and symptoms usually improve within 24-48 hours.

Here are some common symptoms:
• Painful eye(s)
• Burning and redness
• A gritty, sandy feeling, like something is in your eye
• Light sensitivity
• Watery or blurry vision
• Headaches

3. How can Snow Blindness be avoided?
Oddly enough, Snow Blindness can occur at anytime, even without snow present. A day at the beach can be hazardous if proper eye protection isn’t worn, as the water and sand can reflect and amplify the sun’s powerful rays.

Snow is even more reflective of the sun’s rays, reflecting more than 80 percent of the UV rays that land on it. Individuals partaking in activities at high altitudes, such as skiing, snowboarding, and mountain climbing, should be extra cautious as higher altitudes also mean stronger UV rays. Combining the snow and high altitude, these folks are at an increased risk for Snow Blindness.

The best way to protect yourself from this painful condition is to wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays whenever you’re outside. Even overcast days can be dangerous to your eyes, so wear eye protection regardless of how much sunlight is present.

If you plan to go skiing, hiking or snowboarding this winter, invest in a decent pair of snow goggles – ones that protect the side of your eyes and help to shield them from the wind as well as the UV rays.

Sources: www.allaboutvision.com and aao.org