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Home » What's New » Don’t Let Snow Blindness Ruin Your Winter Vacation

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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To our valued patients,

At The Eye Doctors, Inc. the health and well-being of our patients is at the core of everything that we do. In light of the rapidly changing situation and the spread of COVID-19 we made the difficult decision to close the clinic on Tuesday, March 17 th.

At this time, the Wal-Mart Vision Center remains open limited hours for urgent glasses repairs, pick-ups of existing orders and new contact lens orders. The vision center is open every day from 10 AM to 2 PM and on Tuesdays from 6 AM to 2 PM, with the hour of 6 AM to 7 AM reserved for senior citizens. New orders of contact lenses can be placed in-store or over the phone at 952-829-9024 and will be shipped directly to your home.  Additionally, you may order contact lenses at www.walmartcontacts.com

If you are experiencing an eye emergency, please call 952-955-4427 to leave a message for one of the doctors. Messages will be checked Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

We are monitoring the situation closely and will re-open when it is safe to do so. We look forward to seeing you when things improve and thank you for your continued support of our practice. Please continue to our website for further information.

Dr. Melissa Viker & Dr. Britt Gustafson

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The Eye Doctors, Inc. COVID-19 Information:

Our clinic closed on March 17th and will remain closed until it is safe to re-open.  Please watch our website and Facebook page for updates.

Urgent or Emergent Eye Concerns

If you have an eye emergency, we are here to help.  Please call 952-955-4427 and one of the doctors will return your call.  The messages are monitored Monday through Saturday between 9 AM and 5 PM.  Eye emergencies include (but are not limited to): eye pain, a recent onset of redness in one or both eyes, flashes of light or sudden onset of new floaters, double vision, and sudden change/worsening of vision in one or both eyes.

Glasses and Contact Lens Orders:

The Wal-Mart Vision Center is open daily at this time from 10 AM to 2 PM and 6 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays for limited services. The hour of 6 AM to 7 AM on Tuesdays is reserved for senior citizens.  One optician is on duty to provide urgent glasses repairs and adjustments; at this time no new orders for glasses are being accepted. Existing orders of contact lenses and glasses may be picked up from the vision center.  New orders of contact lenses can be placed in store and will be shipped to your home if we do not have the lenses in stock. Additionally, you may order contact lenses at www.walmartcontacts.com

Contact Lens Safety

There is no evidence that contact lens wearers are at greater risk for a Corona Virus infection, per the American Optometric Association Cornea and Contact Lens Section.  Please follow the below tips:

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling contact lenses
  • Avoid using contact lenses if you are ill with any cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Reduce your risk for infection by avoiding sleeping, napping, swimming or showering in contact lenses
  • Replace your contact lens case every 2 months
  • Use fresh contact lens solution each time you store your lenses
  • Do not reuse single-use/daily disposable lenses