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Sunburned Eyes? Beware of Snow Blindness!

Playing outside in a snowy winter wonderland can be magical. Under clear skies in the sunshine, the soft white landscape becomes just about irresistible, whether at home or travelling on a winter-weather get-away. 

Before you let your children run outside to build the most adorable snowman or fling themselves onto the ski slopes, make sure their eyes are well protected. Sun and snow can be a dangerous combination for both the eyes and skin. 

Sunlight Reflected in the Snow

We all know why we need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer. Winter, however, can be deceiving. It’s an illusion to assume that we are safe from sunburns during the colder season. 

Snow acts as a powerful mirror for sunlight and magnifies the effects of UV rays which would otherwise be absorbed by the ground. As a result, the eyes are exposed to both the UV radiation bouncing back from the snowy carpet and the rays shining down directly from the sun. 

If your family is skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains, you need to be even more careful! UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Another important factor to remember is that ultraviolet radiation penetrates through clouds, so even if the sun is hidden behind them, it can still damage your eyes.

Can I Get Sunburned Eyes?

As you may have already guessed, yes —it is possible to get sunburned eyes. The condition is called snow blindness, or photokeratitis. Although most people do not actually experience permanent vision loss, photokeratitis is usually painful, causes extreme sensitivity to light, and can take up to two weeks to fully heal. 

A single day of playing outside in the snow and being exposed to intensive sun glare can be enough to cause snow blindness— though usually with a delay of several hours following sun exposure. What’s worse, if the eyes are repeatedly sunburned there is a risk of long-term damage. 

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

Just like a typical skin sunburn appears only after having been exposed to the sun’s rays, the same is true for the eyes. One sign of overexposure to UV is a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes, or a feeling of having sand in your eyes after a day spent in the snow. 

When eyes are sunburned, they become highly sensitive to light, making it difficult to be outside. Other symptoms include blurred vision, watery eyes, and swollen eyelids. In rare cases, photokeratitis can even cause temporary vision loss, but it doesn’t usually last longer than a day or two.

How Do I Protect My Eyes From Sunburn?

Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet radiation when you go outside, no matter what time of year it is. An even more effective solution for winter activities is to strap on a pair of well-fitting UV protective sports eyewear, such as ski goggles. Wrap-around styles are ideal because they stay on even when you’re active, and block the sun’s rays from entering your eyes from the sides too. 

For winter sports lovers, there are plenty of good reasons to wear protective eyewear, and what works well in sports can be good for play as well. 

How Can I Treat Sunburned Eyes?

It’s after the fact, and you’re suffering from photokeratitis… now what? Give your eyes a rest. 

  • Stay out of the sun for a few days until the symptoms die down. 
  • You may find it comforting to wear sunglasses even when indoors. 
  • For additional relief, place a cool, damp cloth over the closed eyelids while resting.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses until the eyes return to normal. 
  • Artificial tears can help keep the eyes moistened, soothe discomfort and promote healing. However, it’s important to consult an eye doctor before running to the pharmacy, since some eye drops are not well-suited for this condition. You can give us a call at 281-377-6385.

Now that you know the risks and precautions to take, you’re all set to enjoy the winter wonderland! Dr. Mark Richardson at Texas State Optical is happy to help you protect yourself and your family from snow blindness, and offers expert treatment for sunburned eyes. 

Smart Hygiene Habits to Care for Your Contact Lenses

Swimming in a pool with your contacts on or topping off your solution may seem harmless, but they could compromise your contact lenses and your vision.

Below are daily habits to adopt for optimal contact lens care:

Wash Your Hands Regularly

Whether you use daily or monthly contact lenses, make sure to first wash your hands. Placing your finger on some clear tape and seeing the mark you leave will give you some indication of what you’re putting on your contact lenses if you don’t wash and dry your hands beforehand. Avoid using scented or oily soaps, as their residue might stick to the lens surface. Similarly, avoid creams and lotions prior to inserting contacts into your eyes. 

This one simple and easy habit can make a massive difference in your eye health and can potentially prevent eye irritation and infections. 

Clean Your Contacts Daily

You must clean and disinfect your contact lenses on a daily basis, unless you use daily disposables, of course. There are several cleansing systems and solutions available — the choice depends on the type of lens you use. Speak with Dr. Mark Richardson to determine the best cleaning solution for your lenses and eyes.

Avoid Contact with Water

It might seem harmless, but we advise against using tap water, as it contains impurities and microorganisms that can cause infections. Furthermore, tap water can lead your contacts to swell and change their shape. If you must swim with your contact lenses on, make sure to wear protective goggles and clean them with solution when you come out of the pool.

Never Ever Use Saliva 

Your mouth is filled with germs, which are fine for your teeth but not for your eyes. Avoid using saliva to “clean” or moisten your contact lenses.  

Do Not Top off Solution

Just as you shouldn’t mix spoiled food with fresh foods, you should not top off yesterday’s solution in your contact lens case with fresh solution. The concoction might not contain enough disinfectant to kill off organisms and clean your lenses. 

Routinely Change the Contact Lens Case

Many people don’t know about this one, but it’s recommended to change your contact lens case every 2-3 months, as microscopic dirt may linger in the case, leading to contamination and eye infections. 

Don’t Sleep with Your Lenses On

It’s important to give your cornea a chance to breathe; sleeping with your contacts may cause redness, soreness and infections. So make sure to remove your contact lenses before you get some shut-eye, unless they’re specialty lenses which are intended to be worn overnight. 

If you’re using orthokeratology (ortho-k) lenses to reshape your cornea, do wear them at night or as instructed by your eye doctor. 

Get That Annual Eye Exam

Don’t forget to book your yearly eye exam at Texas State Optical in Humble, as your vision can change. You can’t purchase new contact lenses with an expired prescription anyway, so you’ll need an updated one when your contact lens supply is running low. Furthermore, getting an exam is also an excellent opportunity to ask Dr. Mark Richardson any questions you may have.

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