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Don’t Let Snow Blindness Ruin Your Winter Vacation

While most people have sunglasses high on their packing list for a tropical vacation, many people don’t consider it as much of a priority for colder climate getaways. But they should, and here’s why:

Wintertime vacations often include activities that involve snow and ice and in general, conditions that can lead to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. Without proper eye protection, this can lead to photokeratitis or snow blindness, a condition that results in pain and temporary vision loss.

Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on the eye which occurs when the eye is exposed to invisible ultraviolet or UV rays, from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps or tanning beds. It mainly affects the cornea, the curved outermost surface of the eye that plays a role in your ability to focus, and the conjunctiva, the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. It causes inflammation, pain and sometimes a temporary loss of vision.

Despite its name, snow blindness doesn’t occur exclusively in the snow. It can happen in any environment in which UV rays are strongly reflected including water, sand or ice as well. It is also more common in high altitudes where the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger and the air is thinner, which is why skiing and mountain climbing can even be more risky than summertime activities on a lower altitude. Snow and ice reflect more UV light than almost any other surface, but you don’t always feel or notice the strong glare, making snow blindness a silent winter hazard that can only be prevented by awareness.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

Unfortunately, just like any sunburn, you usually don’t notice the symptoms of snow blindness until the damage has already been done. Symptoms usually occur several hours after the activity, so one may not realize that they were caused from snow blindness.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Grittiness
  • Tearing
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Glare or Halos
  • Blurry Vision
  • Watery Eyes
  • Swollen Eyes or Eyelids
  • Headaches
  • Temporary Vision Loss

Any vision loss that does occur will usually return with in a day or two, but the greater the exposure to the UV rays, the worse the damage that is done.

How Is Snow Blindness Treated?

There is little to do to treat photokeratitis. Just like a sunburn elsewhere on the body, it eventually heals on its own. There are however, some steps you can take to find relief from the symptoms which include:

  • Stay indoors, in a dark area until the eyes become less sensitive.
  • Wear sunglasses if it helps.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Remove contact lenses.
  • Apply preservative-free artificial tears to add moisture.
  • Use a cold compress to soothe your eyes.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relief or antibiotic eye drops according to your eye doctor’s advice.

If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve within 24 -48 hours, contact your eye doctor immediately.

Tips to Prevent Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is actually very preventable and all it takes is a good pair of sunglasses or sports goggles. Any time you are outside, rain or shine, you should wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses. That’s right, the sun’s powerful UV rays can even penetrate clouds on an overcast day.

If you are involved in sports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing or water activities consider a pair of wrap-around sunglasses or sports goggles with shields to prevent the rays from entering from above and through the sides. Wearing a hat or helmet with a brim will also help to increase protection.

Whether you are going North, South or somewhere in between, make sure to pack your shades and protect your eyes so you have an eye-safe, fun and enjoyable vacation.

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CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE – MARCH 23, 2020

PLEASE CALL 603-524–5770 BEFORE COMING TO OUR OFFICE.

We are all very concerned with the responsibilities that the coronavirus has placed upon us in recent weeks. We strive our best to maintain the health and well-being of both our patients and our staff. We are all familiar with the CDC guidelines of social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizers and staying home as much as possible. We are busy at our office disinfecting surfaces between patient visits and completely at the end of each day.

In order to maintain best practice guidelines, beginning March 23, 2020 our office will remain open, with reduced hours from 9:00AM to 1:00PM Monday through Friday. Daily appointments will be reserved for emergencies,urgent care and essential services only, to relieve the burden on the ER and urgent care clinics. Routine eye care services will be rescheduled to future dates. We will be open for delivery of eyeglasses, contact lenses, vitamin supplements,etc.

If you have an eye emergency and need an appointment, please call ahead with your insurance information available so we may verify it before you arrive. If you are picking up glasses, contact lenses, etc. please call ahead to schedule a time for delivery.

If you are sick, have flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to anyone havingCOVID-19, please call ahead to let us know your circumstances so we may help determine the best course of action.

Winnipesaukee Eye is here to serve the community in this time of need. Medical eye care emergencies don’t take a vacation just because we are experiencing this pandemic. Smart precautionary practices and cooperation will allow us to provide a much needed service while supporting a safe and healthy visit.

PLEASE CALL 603-524-5770 TO LET US KNOW YOU ARE COMING PRIORTO YOUR VISIT.

Thank you.

Doctors McManus and the Zagroba, and the Winnipesaukee Eye Staff.