Snow Blindness: How to Prevent Sunburned Eyes

January 30, 2016

Snow-blindness – frightening and painful – completely preventable!

Snow-blindness is caused by overexposure of the eyes to Ultra-Violet rays. It can even happen without snow, for example out on the water or even just on a white sand beach. Simply, it results from sun-burning the eyes. The typical experience is to spend quite a bit of time with the eyes exposed to the sun without sunglass protection. The eyes may become a little irritated and red. Then you wake up a few hours after going to sleep with severe pain, the feeling of grittiness and light sensitivity such that it is hard to keep the eyes open. It can be experienced by skiers, snowboarders, sailors, sun-bathers. The problem stems from an almost double dose of ultra-violet because snow, water, sand, etc., can reflect about 80% of the UV that comes directly from the sun, so the eyes are receiving the UV from both above and below.

The symptoms typically resolve within 24-48 hours and the best relief can come from over-the-counter pain meds plus cold compresses and staying in the dark. The frequent use of Artificial Tears can be helpful. If you wear contact lenses, it is important to remove them and not wear again until the eyes return to normal.

Prevention could not be simpler: Sunglasses or goggles should be worn when participating in outdoor activities which cause sun exposure. Whatever sun protection you choose, it should block out 100% of harmful UV-A and UV-B rays.