SNOW BLINDNESS 101

Ever wonder why it’s actually brighter outside in the wintertime than in the summertime? Or why people who ski or do other outdoor winter sports always wear mirrored sunglasses?

This is all due to a phenomenon called photokeratitis, better known as snow blindness. Snow blindness is a painful eye condition that’s caused by over exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and often affects your eyes in snowy terrains and cold winter environments. If you live in Canada, this definitely means you.

WHAT CAUSES SNOW BLINDNESS?

The simplest explanation for snow blindness is that the snow on the ground causes more light and UV to reflect into grey and gloomy winter environments. Most people think that the sun is stronger in the summertime because it’s hotter outside, but the sun is actually just as strong all year round. So when you add some snow to the mix, it’s like shining a bright light into a mirror…and then pointing that mirror right into your eyes.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SNOW BLINDNESS?

We’ve all experienced signs of snow blindness on sunny winter days in Canada. The most common indication is when your eyes start watering, which happens when your cornea swells. In extreme circumstances—over-exposure in the arctic, for example—eye watering can lead to actual blindness. Over exposure to UV rays can also cause several different eye health problems, like photokeratits, macular degeneration, pingeculas and many more. 

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?

Regardless of the weather, protecting your eyes behind a good pair of sunglasses will help reduce UV exposure. The best type of sunglasses for both summer and winter are Polarized lenses with a back surface anti-reflective coating. Polarized lenses put all rays of light on one horizontal plane, smoothing out the light, while the back surface anti-reflective coating reduces the sun’s glare from behind you. Another great add-on is a mirror coating on the front surface, which will also reduce the sun’s glare but still allow the sun to reflect back out.

As the hole in the ozone layer grows, our exposure to ultraviolet rays will only get stronger. So whether you need a prescription or not, the experts here at 312 Optical Studio can help you find sunglasses that will protect your eyes.