Preventing & Treating Snow Blindness

You’re relaxing after a long day on the slopes when you feel a sudden sharp pain in your eyes. What’s going on? Snow blindness, also known as photokeratitis, can strike an unwary skier, snowboarder, climber, or mountain biker at any time. It’s a temporary condition that can be extremely painful and disorienting. The snow sports experts at ASO Mammoth, the top spot for ski gear and Mammoth snowboard rentals, offer this advice about snow blindness and how to prevent and treat it.

Causes of Snow Blindness

In its simplest terms, snow blindness is a sunburn of the cornea and conjunctiva, the protective membranes that cover the eyes. The sun’s bright reflection on the snow causes intense rays of sunlight to burn the eyes the same way it can burn skin. If you stay out in the sun too long, sunburn symptoms don’t usually show up until hours afterward. Similarly, the burn on your eyes may show up several hours after you’ve overexposed them to the sun. 

The symptoms of snow blindness may include:

  • Swollen, bloodshot eyes
  • Extreme tear production
  • Seeing everything in one color, usually red
  • Sharp, intense eye pain that worsens with time
  • Feeling of sand or grit in the eye
  • Inability to keep eyes open

How to Treat Snow Blindness

In most cases, snow blindness starts to ease up after 24 hours. It’s critical to stay indoors with your eyes covered. Wear eye pads or an eye mask and lie down in a dark room. You should wear the bandages for at least 24 hours. Only remove them when you’re able to open your eyes without pain. If you wear contact lenses, take them out. To relieve the swelling and pain, use a cool compress. An over-the-counter pain medication can also help. Once you can open your eyes without pain, wear sunglasses whenever you step outside. 

Snow blindness is temporary and should heal in two to three days if you rest your eyes and avoid further sun exposure. However, this doesn’t mean you should shrug the issue off. Repeated episodes of snow blindness can lead to a permanent condition called solar retinopathy, which causes permanent loss of at least some vision.

How to Prevent Snow Blindness

Sunglasses and goggles are the best defense against this condition. It’s critical to buy eyewear that shields your eyes from the sun’s rays from all angles and surfaces. Look for full-coverage, side-coverage, or wrap sunglasses rated for full UV blockage. Polarized lenses are usually best. Glacier goggles are designed to provide extra protection from the sun with dark, extra-large lenses. They’re a good choice if you’re planning any snow-related adventures. Snow goggles are another great option, but make sure they have dark lenses rather than clear ones.

For more advice on how to enjoy the slopes safely, call on the experts at ASO Mammoth, your one-stop shop for the high-quality repairs, equipment, and ski and snowboard rental Mammoth visitors know they can rely on. Give us a call today at 760-965-3444.

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