With the arrival of winter, also arrives the ski season and other winter sports of this season. However, while we spend time on the mountain, we are exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun, which can especially harm our eyes and vision.
This greater exposure to ultraviolet radiation is due, on the one hand, to the fact that snow reflects up to 80% of the ultraviolet rays and, on the other hand, the higher the altitude, the lower the atmospheric absorption of ultraviolet rays.
Excessive exposure of our eyes to ultraviolet radiation often causes what is known as solar keratitis. In addition, the effect of UV radiation is cumulative, which is why a prolonged exposure over time can cause more serious pathologies, such as the early onset of cataracts or other retinal lesions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Therefore, it is very important to protect our eyes properly when we practice winter sports or just spend time on the mountain.
What is solar keratitis?
Solar keratitis, also commonly known as snow blindness, consist of an inflammation of the cornea caused by intense exposure to ultraviolet rays without adequate protection.
Solar keratitis usually affects both eyes, and exposure for only two hours is more than enough to cause its appearance. However, their symptoms are bilateral and do not appear immediately after exposure to radiation, but appear between 6 and 12 hours after exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Among its symptoms are intense pain, redness of the eyes, tearing, photophobia or abnormal intolerance to light, burning or foreign body sensation in the eyes, and decreased visual acuity.
In case of suffering a solar keratitis, it is recommended to go as soon as possible to a specialist, who will recommend the most appropriate treatment. It is usually advised to rest in the dark with your eyes closed, and cover your eyes with very dark glasses or an eye bandage. Avoid rubbing your eyes, and do not wear contact lenses for a while.
In most cases, the recovery of this type of keratitis occurs within 24 to 48 hours.
How to protect our eyes from ultraviolet light
To prevent both the risk of suffering from solar keratitis and other retinal injuries, when we go to the mountain to ski, other winter sports, or just any other activity in the snow, it is important to always use, both on sunny days and cloudy, glasses that protect our eyes properly from ultraviolet rays, which should comply with the following:
- They are properly certified (including the CE mark)
- Have a level 4 of ultraviolet protection or filter at least 75%
- That they filter at least 50% of the infrared radiation
- That have lateral protection
- That are made of an impact resistant material
In addition, it is advisable that they be polarized, since they reduce the reflections in high light conditions.
Finally, remember that if you need any type of health care related to vision, in the Ophthalmology Unit at Vithas Xanit international Hospital, located in Benalmádena, on the Costa del Sol, we offer you the best service. Contact us if you want more information or make an appointment.