Blindness of snow

The first snows arrive and ski resorts open their doors. As in summer, it is necessary to protect the eyes in winter from the radiations of the sun and special care must be taken when practicing sports in the snow, since it reflects sunlight up to 4 times more than water, and the proportion of Ultraviolet radiation increases by 10% every 1,000 meters of altitude.

This exposure to the reflection of sunlight in the snow produces damage not only on the skin and mucous membranes, but also in the eyes, says Dr. María Capote, an ophthalmologist expert in the retina of the Ophthalmology Service of the Hospital La Milagrosa in Madrid.

What eye injuries can occur in the snow?

The most frequent injury in the snow is solar keratitis or photokeratitis, known as "the blindness of the snow", an inflammation of the cornea, the most external transparent part of the eye. Only in two hours exposure to sunlight, sin the adequate protection, the Reflection of the snow can cause these injuries.


It must be borne in mind, says Dr. Capote, that "solar radiation is cumulative." This prolonged exposure leads to premature aging of the eyelids and conjunctiva, and can accelerate the formation of cataracts, and can even cause damage to the retina. , such as Macular Degeneration associated with age (AMD) ".

What symptoms produces photokeratitis?

Photokeratitis gives symptoms 6-12 hours after exposure. They usually appear in both eyes and are more intense the longer we have been exposed to ultraviolet sunlight.
The symptoms are:
- Intense pain
- feeling of having grit
- Red eyes
- tearing
- sensitivity to light and
- decreased visual acuity.


How to prevent snow blindness

Sunscreen with the right glasses. It is essential, use them regardless of whether the day is cloudy or if we are going to be more or less time.

The glasses should be worn the whole time we are exposed in the snow to sunlight.

How to choose suitable glasses for snow?

It is important to bear in mind that the color of the lens of the goggle does not represent the appropriate UV filter, according to Ivan Gonzalo, optometrist at the Hospital La Milagrosa.

A lens with dark, unapproved glass favors dilation of the pupil and penetrates more ultraviolet rays and increases the risk of eye damage.

Glasses for skiing or for snow sports in general, should be:
- Approved glasses, which comply with ISO standards and display the CE mark.
- The recommended filter is grade 4
- Polarized glasses to reduce reflections.
- Glasses as closed as possible to avoid discomfort with the lateral reflexes.
- Glasses with a resistant material and adequate design to offer physical protection against accidental injuries.


Does blindness in the snow have treatment?

The best treatment is always prevention, emphasizes María Capote.
But once the first symptoms are presented it is the ophthalmologist who will prescribe artificial tears, sometimes it can add some eye drops with anti-inflammatory or corticoid, and oral pain analgesia.

In 48-72 hours with the right treatment the symptoms improve and the corneal lesions disappear.

Marina Berrio
Advice:Dr. María Capote, expert ophthalmologist in the Retina of the Ophthalmology Service of the Hospital La Milagrosa in Madrid.

Video: The dangers of snow blindness


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