What causes you to be snow blind?

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UV protective sun glasses can prevent snow blindness
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Wondering how to protect your eyes and what causes you to be snow blind?

When your eyes are exposed to too much ultraviolet light for a long period of time, it may be what causes you to be snow blind. This is generally a temporary condition and the result of swollen cells on the surface of the cornea. Even when snow blindness is severe, the person is usually still capable of seeing some movement and shapes.

This is not a condition that you want to take lightly.

The cause of snow blindness, which is medically called ultraviolet keratitis or photo keratitis, is insufficient protection of your eyes. The source of the light responsible for snow blindness can be either artificial or natural.

Snow reflecting UV light from the sun is one of the causes of snow blindness. This is why skiers and others that participate in winter sports routinely wear protective glasses. People who spend a great deal of time outdoors in snowy weather - walking the dog or working, for example - should also wear high quality protective wrap sunglasses.

Snow blindness is comparable to getting a sun burn on the cornea of your eye. The cornea is the front part of the eye which is transparent. It covers the pupil, the iris and the anterior chamber. The cornea, along with the eye lens, refracts light.  The cornea and lens account for most of the eye’s optical power.

Snow blindness may not be noticed right away. It may take a few hours post exposure for you to realize what has happened. Your eyes will begin to feel gritty, tears will increase, and you will experience pain.

Other terms for snow blind are flash burns, keratoconjunctivitis, arc eye, bake eyes, welder’s flash and corneal flash burns.  On an extremely bright and snowy day, the brightness can be 10 to 15 times more than what your eyes should be exposed to.  Even when it is overcast the rays of the sun can still be terribly harmful to your eyes, particularly when at high altitudes, such as when mountain climbing.

You can prevent snow blindness by wearing protective eyewear that blocks most of the UV radiation. Sunglasses must be rated for adequate sun UV protection, and if you are wearing snow goggles the same applies.

Sunglasses can afford your eyes needed protection while simultaneously making you look good and even mysterious. You can choose from oversized glasses, aviators, metal, wrap, rimless, plastic and sport styles. Many of these provide 100 percent UV protection, which is what you want.  

Consider buying wrap around sunglasses. Not only are these glasses attractive, but they provide benefits that a regular pair of sunglasses doesn’t. They protect your eyes from all angles and not just from the front. Quality wrap around glasses feature dust protection as well as direct light and sunshine protection and UV ray protection.

Make sure the lenses are big enough that they shield your eyes from most angles. 

It is imperative that you protect your eyes from the sun all the time and not just occasionally. Overexposure to UV rays can lead to skin cancer around your eyes and on your face, macular degeneration and cataracts. Select glasses that reduce glare in addition to filtering out UV rays, those that do not distort colors and are comfortable to wear.

Those at the highest risk for eye damage from the sun are people who have retina disorders or who have had cataract surgery; those who spend a lot of times in the sun and people who are taking drugs, such as diuretics, birth control pills, tranquilizers, sulfa and tetracycline, which make their eyes sun sensitive.

In addition to wearing protective eye wear, consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat which will give you even more protection from the sun and its dangerous rays. An ounce of protection goes a long way in saving your eyes and vision.

If you suffer from snow blindness, get out of the sun, cover your corneas and take something for pain. Contact a doctor if the problem doesn’t rectify itself within 24 hours.


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