Snow Blindness (Solar Keratitis/Photokeratitis) is a painful eye condition that results from excessive intense exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Snow Blindness results when the sunlight is reflected off of the snow's surface and directly into the eye. In fact, fresh snow can reflect up to 80% of the sun's ultraviolet energy. The sun's UV energy also increases with altitude, further increasing the chance of Snow Blindness when hitting the mountains for a ski weekend.
Snow Blindness or Photokeratitis happens when ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by the cornea and lens of the eye - kind of like a sunburn. Excessive ultraviolet radiation can lead to a solar toxicity of the cornea and can cause the epithelial layer of the cornea to breakdown. The symptoms of Snow Blindness are identical to that of welder's flash and includes pain, watery eyes, light sensitivity, and twitchy or droopy eyelids.
If you think you or someone has developed Snow Blindness, please see your optometrist for treatment. Treatment may initially involve simple pain relief, but in some more serious conditions, topical and oral pain medications may be warranted.
Prevention is the real key. Wearing dark ultraviolet resistant sunglasses, goggles or specialized glasses while outdoors can help to reduce the likelihood of developing snow blindness, and the uncomfortable symptoms that follow.