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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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We are currently offering in-office care by appointment only.

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COVID-19 UPDATE

The following is a summary of the steps we have taken to protect your safety.

Physical Distancing Measures:

o Reducing density of people: We have adopted a schedule which will reduce the amount of patients in our facility at one time.

o We will have some of our team working from home operating a call centre and tele-medicine pre-screening.

o Spacing stickers have been placed on our floor.

Engineering controls:

o Forms have been digitized and will be emailed to patients in advance of the appointment to minimize contact.

o A “For Payment" button has been installed on our website, valleyvisionoptometry.ca for patients to be able to pay from home to minimize contact.

o Plexiglass barriers have been installed at all 3 Front Desk stations

o Our doors will remain locked during Phase 2, opening the door to let in scheduled patients only.

o A dropbox has been installed for patients to drop off glasses in need of repair.

o Contact lens sales are administered through our webstore.

Administrative controls:

o Cleaning protocols have been written. Staff training on these protocols has been scheduled.

o Clear rules are posted on our front door and throughout all of the stations in our office.

Personal protective equipment:

o Patients will be required to wear a mask upon entry to the office and throughout their time with us. Those who do not have a mask will be supplied a surgical mask upon entry.

Policies around sickness:

o Employees and patients with cold or flu symptoms will be required to stay home.

Frequent hand washing:

o Patients, Doctors, and our Team will be required to wash hands upon entry and exit in to the exam rooms.

o Eyewear Consultants will wear gloves when handling eyewear and performing adjustments.

We currently are operating a reduced schedule, so are triaging patients to ensure those with the highest needs are prioritized.

Sincerely,

Dr. Shaun Golemba

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As of May 19th, we have re-opened by appointment only. Our current hours are Monday to Friday, 8am – 4pm. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. Read about our safety protocols here.