A cold and cloudy day does not mean that the eyes are safe from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. In fact, there are just as many ways your eyes can become damaged during the winter months as there are in the summer. One of the main threats to your eye health is Photokeratitis. Here’s more about what it is, and some winter eye care tips to help protect the eyes.
Photokeratitis can be described as a “sunburned eye”. This condition affects the cornea’s surface layer as well as the conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Photokeratitis is caused by excess exposure to UV rays, including sun reflection from sand, water, ice, and snow. In the winter, UV reflection from ice and snow are the most likely sources of UV damage. For those in the high mountains, the chances of getting Photokeratitis are increased, since the atmosphere is thinner and does not fully shield one from UV rays.
The symptoms most often experienced with this condition include redness, pain, swelling, tearing, headache, light-sensitive and (rarely) temporary vision loss. If Photokeratitis is suspected, schedule an eye appointment as soon as possible. Avoid rubbing the eyes, and use a cool washcloth over the eyes and/or artificial tears to help relieve some of the pain. A doctor may prescribe pain relievers or prescription eye drops to use in addition. The eyes will likely recover in a few days from snow blindness under doctor’s supervision.
Winter Eye Care Tips
The problem with Photokeratitis is that many people do not realize the damage incurred until it is too late. In this case, prevention is the best medicine. Here’s what to do to avoid this painful condition:
- Always wear sunglasses that are maximally UV protective
- When skiing or snowboarding, wear snow goggles that offer maximum UV protection
- Take breaks from being outdoors when possible, to give the eyes some rest from the sun altogether
Contact us to learn more, and to schedule an appointment at any time!