Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is medically called “photokeratitis” which causes eye damage temporarily when the eyes are exposed to prolonged sunlight. It would cause painful condition on the eyes and people who travel more in snowy regions or on high altitudes are prone to snow blindness. Very often, the powerful UV rays of the sun would burn the cornea of the eyes. Initially it will not be noticed but after some time, there would be considerable pain on the eyes or severe eye twitching.

Causes :

Snow blindness is caused by prolonged exposure of UV light of the sun. People who are traveling in elevated areas or snowy glaciers will be under constant exposure of powerful sunlight reflected from the snow. Obviously, snow is capable of reflecting back 75-80% of UV rays and hence it is necessary to take protective goggles before proceeding to hiking snowy peaks.

Who are at risk?

Frequent travelers who often visit snowy terrain and climbing high altitudes are at the risk of developing snow blindness. People who are actively involved in hiking activities like tourists guide are more prone to develop this problem than others.

Welders are also under the risk of getting this problem if they are not wearing protective welding glasses or helmet.

Symptoms :

The initial symptoms will be repeated eye twitches and continuous watering of eyes. There may or may not be eye pain and sometimes your eyes may become bloodshot due to increased irritation. You will feel as though there are sand particles on your eyes. In rare cases, the eyes may shut down unable to open. It may develop inflammation and irritation which is developed due to the attack of the cornea by strong UV rays. For many people, snow blindness may cause temporary vision loss and in extreme cases there can be permanent loss of vision.

Prevention :

You should carry a pair of sunglasses or glacier goggles while you are planning to travel on high altitudes. Your eyes will be exposed to harsh rays of the sun if you are not wearing any eye protective cover. Make sure that you are using quality sunglasses which are effective to block the UV rays of the sun during intense period of sunlight. One will not sense the presence of sun’s rays while traveling on snow covered peaks or on glaciers. It is better to wear dark polarized glasses for getting improved protection of your eyes.

Alternatively you can also use glacier goggles that are equipped with added features to block UV rays of the sun. You should also know how to make your own sunglasses with the available piece of wood or cardboard for protecting your eyes. Wearing sunglasses is very much essential for people who are planning to spend extended hours on snowy peaks or glacier.

Treatment :

By wearing protective sunglasses and properly covering the eyes, you can prevent snow blindness. This disorder can be treated well if the symptoms are immediately treated. It is essential to carry a pair of sunglasses if you are planning to travel on high altitudes or snowy terrain. In case if you are not having sunglasses, then you can always cover your eyes with dark clothing to prevent the strong UV light of the sun. Do not panic if you experience severe eye twitching and pain. Stay calm and do not rub your eyes which may worsen the condition.

Remove the sunglasses and immediately get back to dark room or tent. Apply eye-drops to reduce inflammation and itchy eyes and cover your eyes with dark clothing. It is necessary to discontinue your travel agenda and seek doctor’s advice at the earliest. You can also apply cool compresses for getting temporary relief from pain and itchy feeling.

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