Can Bright White Snow Hurt Your Eyes?

man snowboarding on bright white snowYou’ve got your coat, your hat, your gloves and your scarf. What do you need more than all those cold weather accouterments combined? You need your sunglasses! Bright white snow can wreak more havoc on your eyes than the hottest day of the summer. That’s right. That beautiful bright white snow-covered winter wonderland may look lovely. Unfortunately, all that white snow reflects the sun and its harmful UV rays.

In fact, the snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays. Even on a winter day when your whole body is covered with layers and wool, your eyes are at risk from UV rays hitting them from above and below. Those exposed eyes are in danger unless you take some precautions!

Here are a few of the risks

Photokeratisis

Most simply explained this is like a sunburn on your eye. It can lead to temporary blindness and is painful. It’s caused by prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays and can happen as frequently in the summer as in winter.

Cataracts

It’s possible that prolonged exposure to UV rays increases your risk for cataracts in the future.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Cancers that are caused by too much sun don’t avoid your eyes. Cancer of the eyelids is a real risk if you don’t protect your eyes year round.

Macular Degeneration

As you age, you are at increased risk for macular degeneration. You increase your risk even more with too much UV exposure.

How do you keep your eyes safe on those bright white snowy days?

  1. Choose a pair of ophthalmic quality UV blocking sunglasses.

    Consider wrap arounds or Rec-Specs styles if you have plans to ski or sled. They are more efficient in keeping sun from sneaking in the sides. (These styles will also help keep the snow out of your eyes too!) Remember, the glare off the snow is what reflects up into your eyes. Choose a style with a fuller lens for better coverage. Ask your optometrist about UV blocking goggles, too.

  2. Choose contact lenses with UV protection.

    If you wear contact lenses, choose brands that include UV block. This adds an extra layer of protection if you’ll be out in the bright sunshine a lot this winter.

  3. Avoid Looking At the Sun.

    If you are on the ski lift or at the top of the mountain, try not to avoid looking at the sun.