Snow Blindness(Photokeratitis): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Snow Blindness(Photokeratitis): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Planning on hitting the slopes or exploring snowy mountains? Be cautious of snow blindness, also known as photokeratitis. Excessive UV light exposure without protection can cause sunburn-like damage to your eyes, resulting in pain, redness, and discomfort. Symptoms may take hours or up to a day to appear, including eye pain, watering eyes, headaches, and gritty feeling. Shield your eyes by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles and seeking shade during peak sun hours. Learn more about snow blindness and how to protect your eyes in snowy environments.

Causes of Snow Blindness

The main cause of snow blindness is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays reflected off ice and snow. When sunlight hits a snowy surface, it bounces back, intensifying the amount of UV radiation that reaches the eyes. This excessive exposure can damage the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, leading to snow blindness or photokeratitis.

Risk factors for snow blindness include spending time in high altitude areas where the air is thinner and provides less protection from UV rays. Engaging in outdoor activities like skiing, snowmobiling, and mountaineering without proper eye protection also increases the risk.

Prevention strategies for snow blindness include wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles that cover the eyes completely. These protective eyewear should have a high level of UV protection and fit securely to prevent any stray UV rays from reaching the eyes.

Long-term effects of snow blindness can include an increased risk of developing cataracts, growths on the eyelids, and eye cancer. Excessive sun exposure without eye protection can also lead to vision loss and farsightedness.

The latest research on snow blindness treatments focuses on developing more effective pain relief options and exploring potential therapies to promote faster healing of the cornea. Further studies are needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of these treatments in managing snow blindness.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

When experiencing snow blindness, you may notice sensitivity to bright light, seeing halos around lights, blurriness, and redness in your eyes. These symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and can affect your vision temporarily. It is important to seek proper treatment and take measures to protect your eyes from further damage.

sensitivity to bright light

You may experience sensitivity to bright light as one of the symptoms of snow blindness. Snow blindness, also known as photokeratitis, occurs when the eyes are exposed to UV light without proper protection. This exposure can lead to eye discomfort, light sensitivity, and a sensation of eye strain. The bright light can cause the eyes to become painful, watery, and swollen. Headaches and seeing halos around bright lights may also occur. It is important to seek immediate relief by wearing sunglasses or goggles with UV protection and avoiding further exposure to bright light. Applying a cold compress to the closed eyes and using lubricating eye drops can help alleviate symptoms. If the symptoms worsen or persist, it is recommended to consult a doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

Seeing halos

If you frequently experience seeing halos around bright lights, it may be a symptom of snow blindness, caused by exposure to UV light without proper eye protection. Halos are rings of light that appear around a light source, such as headlights or street lamps. They can be distracting and affect your vision, especially at night.

Causes of halos can include the damage to the cornea and the surface of the eyes from UV rays. When the cornea is injured, it can cause light to scatter, leading to the perception of halos.

The effects of halos can make it difficult to see clearly, especially in low light conditions. This can affect night vision and make activities like driving more dangerous.

Managing halos involves protecting your eyes from further UV damage by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles. Artificial tears can help alleviate dryness and discomfort associated with snow blindness. It is important to seek medical attention if the halos persist or worsen, as it may indicate a more serious eye condition.

Halos and night vision can be particularly problematic, as they can make it difficult to see objects clearly in dark environments. It is important to take extra precautions when navigating in low light conditions to avoid accidents or injuries.

Halos and driving can be a dangerous combination, as they can impair your ability to see other vehicles, pedestrians, or road signs. If you are experiencing halos, it is important to refrain from driving until your vision has improved.


Experiencing blurriness is a common symptom of snow blindness, caused by exposure to UV light without proper eye protection. When the eyes are exposed to excessive UV rays, the cornea can become damaged, leading to visual impairment and blurriness. This blurriness can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of corneal damage. In addition to blurriness, other symptoms of snow blindness include eye discomfort, watering eyes, and sensitivity to light. It is important to note that if left untreated, snow blindness can result in temporary vision loss. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms after being exposed to UV light without protection. Prompt treatment can help alleviate blurriness and prevent further corneal damage.


When exposed to excessive UV light without proper eye protection, the cornea can become damaged, leading to symptoms such as blurriness and redness, which are commonly associated with snow blindness. The redness in the eyes is caused by inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. This inflammation is a result of the corneal damage and the body’s immune response to it. Along with redness, you may also experience eye pain and swelling. The blood vessels in the eyes become dilated and engorged, causing the red appearance. It is important to seek treatment for snow blindness to alleviate these symptoms and prevent further complications.

Risks and Complications of Snow Blindness

The risks and complications of snow blindness can include potential vision impairment and increased hazards during activities such as driving or operating machinery. Prolonged exposure to the sun without eye protection can lead to more serious conditions such as eye cancer, cataracts, and growths on the eyelid. Vision loss and farsightedness can also result from excessive sun exposure without eye protection.

To give you a better understanding, here is a table outlining the potential risks and complications of snow blindness:

| Risks and Complications of Snow Blindness |
| Long term effects | Eye cancer risk | Impact on daily activities |
| Cataract development | Vision loss prevention |

Long term effects of snow blindness can include permanent damage to the eyes and vision impairment. Excessive exposure to UV rays without proper eye protection increases the risk of developing eye cancer, such as melanoma of the eye. Snow blindness can also impact daily activities, making it difficult to perform tasks that require clear vision, such as reading or driving.

Furthermore, prolonged exposure to UV rays can contribute to the development of cataracts, which cause clouding of the lens in the eye and can lead to vision loss if left untreated. To prevent vision loss and other complications, it is crucial to protect your eyes from excessive sun exposure by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles when outdoors. Additionally, seeking shade and avoiding tanning beds or other artificial sources of UV rays can help minimize the risks associated with snow blindness.

Treatment of Snow Blindness

To effectively treat snow blindness, you should focus on relieving symptoms and promoting healing. There are several options for pain relief in the treatment of snow blindness. Oral analgesics, such as Vicodin or oxycodone, can be effective in providing adequate pain relief. These medications should be taken as directed by a healthcare professional and only for the recommended duration.

In addition to pain relief, the use of topical antibiotic ointments can help improve comfort and prevent infection. These ointments should be applied to the affected eyes as instructed by a healthcare professional. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and duration of use to avoid any potential side effects.

Cycloplegic drops may also be used in the treatment of snow blindness to relieve pain. These drops work by temporarily paralyzing the muscles in the eye, reducing pain and inflammation. However, it is important to note that cycloplegic drops can result in pupil dilation that may last for several days.

Another treatment option for snow blindness is patching of the worse eye. This can offer some relief by reducing exposure to light and allowing the eye to rest and heal. However, it should be noted that patching has not been proven to speed up the healing process.

Prevention of Snow Blindness

Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles when outdoors. Here are four important steps to prevent snow blindness:

  1. Choose UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles: When selecting eye protection, look for sunglasses or goggles that specifically mention UV protection. Make sure they block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound styles offer the best coverage, shielding your eyes from rays entering from the sides.
  2. Stay in shaded areas: When spending time outdoors, try to seek shaded areas, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the peak hours when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Shaded areas provide an extra layer of protection against UV radiation.
  3. Use artificial tears: Snow blindness can cause dryness and discomfort in the eyes. Using lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, can help soothe the eyes and keep them moisturized. Look for drops specifically designed for dry eyes and use them as directed.
  4. Wear a hat with dark-colored and canvas material: Adding a hat to your outdoor attire can provide additional shade and protection for your eyes. Opt for a hat with a brim that covers your face and shades your eyes from direct sunlight. Dark-colored and canvas materials are ideal for blocking UV rays.
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