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Understanding Snow Blindness


Winter is FINALLY here, and with it comes the magical amenities that cold weather has to offer, such as ski trips, winter hikes, and even the occasional snowman building contest. With these fun plans in mind, I am sure you have your go-to packing listing that includes warm clothes, boots, and maybe some lip balm.

But did you remember to pack your sunglasses?

That's right; sunglasses are a necessity when it comes to protecting yourself against harmful eye conditions such as photokeratitis or snow blindness brought on by extreme weather.

So what exactly is snow blindness, you might be asking?

Simply put, snow blindness is the damaging effect on the cornea due to prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays. Just how your skin can become sunburnt from UV rays, your eyes can also become damaged in the presence of too much sun. 

Although one might be quick to notice reflections from summertime water activities, causing pain or irritation to their eyes, snow is also a common surface that can cause photokeratitis. In fact, snow can reflect up to 80% of the sun's UV rays. 

Some of the symptoms of snow blindness include:

  • Light sensitivity  
  • Burning or gritty sensation in the eyes
  • Bright red hue in the whites of the eyes
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Momentary loss of vision

While these symptoms seem rather serious, most of them can disappear on their own so long as the individual suffering from snow blindness removes themselves from UV ray exposure and rests their eyes. Other common treatments to relieve the pain of photokeratitis includes using artificial tears to rejuvenate the eye and cold compresses to reduce inflammation.

Whether it is summer or winter, there is a simple yet fashionable solution to preventing photokeratitis: sunglasses!

Now, not all sunglasses are worthy of protecting something as valuable as your eyes. Make sure to invest in quality sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. In addition, the more surface around your eyes your sunglasses cover, the better; remember UV rays can reflect onto your face at all angles. Consider investing in wraparound sunglasses. Lastly, UV rays can still damage your eyes on a cloudy day, so make sure to wear protective eyewear rain or shine!

Not sure where to find a quality pair of sunglasses to protect you and your family on your next vacation?

Stop by your local Nationwide Vision, and one of our friendly associates would be happy to assist you in finding the perfect sunglasses to fit your needs.