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Protecting Your Eyes from Snow Glare

Did you know snow can be harder on your eyes than a day at the beach? That’s because snow reflects almost 80 percent of the sun’s rays, directing harmful ultraviolet rays into your eyes. Here’s what you need to know to protect your eyes this winter season. How Winter Glare Can Damage Your Eyes

Hours of bright sun reflecting from snow creates beautiful winter landscapes, but sun glare can also burn the surface of the eye. This creates a temporary, but extremely painful, condition called photokeratitis - more commonly known as snow blindness. Over time, photokeratitis can lead to:

  • Cataracts

  • Cancer of the eyelids

  • Skin cancer around the eyes

  • An increased risk of macular degeneration

  • Blurred vision

  • Night blindness

Photokeratitis is basically a sunburn of the eyes and can take up to a week to heal. Children and individuals with light-colored eyes are more likely to suffer from photokeratitis. Symptoms of Photokeratitis

Symptoms of snow blindness often occur a few hours after UV exposure, just like a sunburn. Typical symptoms and warning signs include:

  • Burning eyes

  • Light sensitivity

  • Eye pain

  • Red eyes

  • Blurry vision

  • A gritty sensation in the eye

  • Watery eyes

  • Headaches

  • Swollen eyes

  • Swollen eyelids

  • Halo glare around lights

Vision loss from snow blindness is temporary and usually resolves in 24 to 48 hours. Although photokeratitis doesn't cause actual blindness, your vision (as well as color vision) can be significantly impaired. If you notice any of these symptoms after a day out in the snow, here are some treatment strategies that can provide relief.

  • Remove contact lenses immediately. Do not wear them again until your eyes return to normal.

  • Stay indoors and wear sunglasses.

  • Do not rub your eyes.

  • Schedule an appointment with an optometrist immediately. They will be able to make recommendations to help your condition.

  • Place a cool, damp washcloth over your eyes.

Make sure to notify your eye doctor if your symptoms worsen after 24 hours. However, while time and treatment can eventually heal eye damage caused by snow blindness, it's important to protect your eyes from long-term damage down the line. Tips for Protecting Your Eyes from Snow Glare

Preventing photokeratitis couldn't be easier! It’s as simple as doing the following:

  • Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun's UV rays when you are outdoors during the day.

  • Glasses wearers can talk with their optometrist about sun-sensitive photochromic lenses or prescription sunglasses.

  • For extended periods of time outdoors, invest in wrap-style frame sunglasses that protect your eyes from indirect as well as direct sunlight.

  • Skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts should look for snow goggles that have side shields or a soft rubber flange that completely blocks sunlight from striking the front of your eyes from the sides, above and below.

When buying winter eyewear, be sure to read the fine print. Look for labels indicating that whether or not the product provides 100 percent UV protection. If the label says something vague like “blocks most UV light” or “UV absorbing” (or if there is no label at all), don’t buy them.

Protect Your Eyes This Winter

Even if you don’t wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, the best place to start your search for proper winter eyewear is with your optometrist. An eye doctor will be able to understand your vision requirements and offer a recommendation on winter eyewear that is right for you. They’ll even check your current sunglasses to see if it’s offering you the complete UV protection needed to thrive outdoors this winter! At Eden Prairie Eye Care, Dr. Oker will ensure that you are staying safe and protecting your eyes in all seasons. Schedule your eye appointment by calling (952) 944-2792 or schedule your appointment via our online platform.


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