Be careful, this danger lurks on the slopes: snow blindness

Sunny days in the mountains invite many people to go skiing, snowboarding or winter hiking. But there is a danger lurking on the slopes that many winter sports enthusiasts are unaware of. Snow blindness, also known as flash, can cause permanent damage to the eyes. But what is behind it and how can you protect yourself?

Perfect weather, groomed pistes and a delicious “delicacy” at the hut – for many people this is a perfect day of skiing. However, those affected are often unaware of how dangerous the combination of snow and sun can be for the eyes.

Snow blindness – UV radiation is so dangerous for the eye

Snow blindness is also called photokeratitis or actinic keratopathy. The eyes are damaged by the strong UV radiation.

Photokeratitis can occur especially when staying in the snow. Because the intensity of UV radiation increases by around 20 percent for every thousand meters of altitude. In addition, the reflection of solar radiation through the snow can be increased many times over (85 percent).

However, the phenomenon can also be felt in the summer months. Sand and water usually reflect the sun’s rays more intensively and lead to  sunburn  on the eyes.

The  cornea  is the front layer of the eye and therefore has an important protective function. It can absorb a large part of the UV radiation. However, with increased exposure to the sun, the cornea is also affected. The result: damaged or dead cells.

Symptoms of snow blindness usually appear about six to eight hours after exposure to intense sunlight. If you have any of these signs, you should urgently seek medical advice:

  • strong sensitivity to light
  • Foreign body sensation (“sand in the eyes”)
  • watery, red and  swollen eyes
  • compulsive closing of the eyes
  • visual disturbances

In mild cases, the symptoms can be completely healed after a few days. Appropriate treatment is always important. This is usually done with ointments, protection of the eyes, pain-relieving therapy and cooling.

However, if the eyes are regularly exposed to strong UV radiation, serious damage such as scarring of the cornea and other eye diseases can occur.

Snow blindness – the right ski goggles make the difference

Ski goggles and sunglasses are not only fashionable accessories, they also protect the eyes. This is to be considered when buying ski goggles:

  • UV-400 reliably protects the eyes:  ski goggles with the UV-400 seal of quality can absorb UV rays with a wavelength of up to 400 nanometers. A tinted glass alone is not enough to protect the eyes.
  • CE mark as valid standard:  The product meets the minimum requirements that apply in Europe.
  • Complete protection of the eye area:  In order to protect the eyes completely, it should be guaranteed that no UV radiation can penetrate from the side either.
  • shatterproof plastic and double glazing:  In order to reduce the risk of injury during winter sports, ski goggles made of plastic are an optimal solution. If the pane breaks or is damaged in a fall, there is still optimal protection for the eyes thanks to an additional layer.

 Clip-in ski goggles are ideal for people with  contact lenses , and there are also special ski goggles for people with glasses.


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