Photokeratitis: Snow Blindness

Photokeratitis: Snow Blindness

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Photokeratitis can produce very irritating symptoms, particularly acute pain. Its occurrence can be stopped with a basic measure: use sun protection glasses, particularly in places where there is snow.

Photokeratitis, also recognized as arched eye, photo conjunctivitis, or snow blindness. This is an eye disease produced by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Such rays can come from an artificial source, from the sun, or its reflection on snow, water, white sand, or ice.

It is named snow blindness because the water in this situation intensifies its reflective capacity. It shows 80% of the ultraviolet rays that fall on it. Furthermore, in high areas, the air is less impenetrable and this decreases safeguard against UV rays.

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Why does photokeratitis occur?

Snow blindness is the most popular form of photokeratitis, but not the only one. Any overexposure to UV rays can produce this syndrome. But, it is more prevalent in people who live near the poles or in high hills. The balance of ultraviolet radiation develops by 10% for every 1000 meters of height.

Photokeratitis is, only put, a burn of the cornea. This is the transparent tissue that covers the eye and is shaped like a roof. The external layer is the epithelium and it is a very delicate tissue, which becomes annoyed and irritated when too much UV light strikes the eye.

Snow blindness can create a transient loss of vision. It is also produced by hard freezing or drying of the epithelium. This happens when a person is revealed to extremely dry and cold weather, such as that common in snowy places.


The major symptoms of photokeratitis are changes in vision and harsh pain in the eyes. This slowly worsens and as time passes other irritating indications appear.

Photokeratitis includes three phases. In the first, there is only a change of vision, similar to light. It is at this duration that there is still no eye injury.

In the secondary phase, the main sign is photophobia or denial of light. Any lighting becomes more and more irritating and a feeling seems as if you had sand in your eyes, particularly when you blink. There is already involved in the cornea.

The third stage is identified by harsh pain and inflammation. Signs such as the following also appear:

  • Red eyes and swollen eyelids.
  • Decreased visual acuity and changes in color perception.
  • Tearing
  • Vision blurred and with halos.
  • Spasms in the eyelids.
  • Very sensitive to bright light.
  • Headache.

Treatment of photokeratitis

Treatment of photokeratitis

Photokeratitis, or snow blindness, normally settles on its own in 24 to 48 hours. If symptoms develop, it is sufficient to remove contact lenses if they are used, as these can worsen the condition. It is not suggested to rub your eyes either.

Some actions to which it is reasonable to go are the following:

  • Implement a cold compress to the eyes. This assists to reduce burning and pain.
  • Hydrate the corneas. This can be arranged with artificial tears and normally speeds healing.
  • Avoid vulnerability to light.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches.

In case the symptoms become very critical or continue for more than two days, it is essential to discuss with the ophthalmologist. Specific care may be required, either because of the hardness of the photokeratitis or because there is a further problem.

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How to prevent it?

Precluding photokeratitis is very easy. A few necessary actions are enough. The first and most essential is to use polarized sunglasses as they reflect the sun’s rays and guard against ultraviolet radiation.

These glasses satisfy the following features:

  • They must be certified by ISO standards and display the CE trademark.
  • The most fitting filter is in grade 4.
  • The more closed, the more beneficial, because they decrease side reflections.
  • If there is no assurance about the quality of the glasses, it is sufficient to discuss an eye doctor to review them.

On the other hand, photochromic glasses can also be an exceptional choice. When a person undergoes a dry eye, it is most satisfying to rinse with artificial tears regularly. Protecting the head with a cap or hat also benefits.

Photokeratitis is not only due to snow

As previously mentioned, photokeratitis is more popular in places where there is snow or at high altitudes. But, the most right thing to do is shield your eyes at all times and places. That is why it is prudent to wear sunglasses, also on cloudy days, and despite not being in connection with the snow.

Snow blindness infrequently causes serious dilemmas. Despite this, it is a very severe disease that becomes disabling for a few days. Beds, tanning lamps as well as arc welding can also produce this disease.

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