Dr. Jim Martin 12/24/2013

sledding.jpgThe winter winds have arrived here in the Texas Panhandle. On occasion, those winds will bring in a snowstorm or a blizzard. During the winter months, a common complaint heard by eye doctors shortly after snow hits is snow blindness.

What Is Snow Blindness?

The medical term for snow blindness is photokeratitis. When you look out on snow and ice without eye protection, your eye's cornea and conjunctiva can receive damage from the reflected UV rays. It is like having a sunburn in your eye. It is more common at higher elevations than at sea level. Since Amarillo is about 3600 feet above sea level, snow blindness can happen in the winter months, especially right after a snow storm.

Most people don't notice the problem until a few hours after exposure. Patients experience pain, constricted pupils, discomfort in light, and intense tearing. Some develop uncontrollable eyelid twitching. In more extreme cases, eyelids may swell shut. Some experience a temporary loss of vision.

How Do You Treat Snow Blindness?

At the first signs of snow blindness, it is very important to get out of the snow and sun immediately. Sit in a dark room with something over the eyes to prevent light entering. Remove any contacts you are wearing and do not rub the eyes. Most people can recover within a couple of days, if they stay out of the sun. Using OTC pain medications can help along with artificial tears.

If the pain remains or you experience vision loss, you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible. The optometrist can prescribe medications that will help ease the pain.

How Do You Prevent Snow Blindness?

The easiest way to avoid snow blindness is to wear sunglasses. Quality counts in this case. A cheap pair will not protect your eyes. You want a pair that has the highest UV protection possible. Polarized or dark mirror sunglasses are the best option. In very intensely bright snow conditions, the sunglasses should have large lenses and side shields to prevent accidental damage from the sides. For those who want to get out and enjoy the snow in the country, a special pair of snow goggles is the perfect option.

If you suspect you have a case of snow blindness, you need to come into Broome Optical as soon as possible. Our team of eye care professionals can treat the condition. To prevent problems, we carry sunglasses to protect you from the effects of UV rays. Contact us today.

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