Eye up the right eyewear this ski season
This 2014 ski season will see over 45,000 Irish people heading for the pistes and eye experts are urging skiers and snowboarders to eye up the right eyewear to avoid the risk of eye damage or snowblindness.
Snow and sun is a fantastic combination but it can also be very dangerous for eyes and eye experts warn that it is essential to maintain full eye coverage at all times while on the slopes this season.
Experts from Specsavers have warned that while most skiiers and snowboarders tend to prepare themselves carefully with the correct equipment, clothing and helmets when heading for the piste, they fail to adequately protect their eyes. Do not cut corners when it comes to the right eyewear, is the strong message.
It is not just the fact that that you are closer to the sun when skiing and snowboarding that increases the level of harmful UV rays being directed at the face and eyes, although this is a factor – with every thousand feet increase in altitude, the average intensity of UV radiation goes up by 5%. To compound this problem, the white surface of snow and ice can reflect up to 85% of the UV radiation coming from the sun back towards the face. While this effect is quite noticeable on a bright sunny day, many people are caught out when the weather is overcast – UV levels can still be high, even when the light seems ‘flat’.
Niphablepsia is the technical term for snow blindness, and this condition can encompass several types of damage to the eye. Most often, photokeratitis – which is basically sunburn to the cornea and conjunctiva – results from overexposure to UV radiation. More severe cases of snow blindness can result in solar retinopathy, which is (a usually temporary) damage to the retina, at the back of the eye. Redness and watering eyes are common symptoms of mild snow blindness, but a temporary loss of vision and significant pain is not uncommon. All in all, Niphablepsia can cause more problems than the average fall on the slopes, and is something best avoided!
So What is the Best Practice Eye-Care for Skiing / Boarding?
• Make sure your ski goggles or sunglasses block at least 95% of these UVA and UVB rays. Long term exposure to these rays can permanently damage your eyes causing cataracts and other eye conditions, even short term exposure can cause snowblindness.
• Choose ski goggles with large wide lenses or sunglasses that wrap around your face, as your field of vision is important when skiing or boarding.
• Don’t assume that the sunglasses that you wear in the summer are suitable on the slopes. Specialist winter ski goggles are made from more appropriate materials that can withstand cold conditions and will not break or shatter on impact.
• The tint of the lens is very important. Go for yellow, orange, or rose coloured tints as these will enhance contrast and improve your vision. Modulating lenses are best as they will alter the depth of tint to match the light conditions while still protecting against the UV rays at all times.
• If you wear glasses, don’t attempt to ski or snowboard without them. Glasses wearers no longer have to try to fit their glasses underneath their goggles and worry about fogging. Special ski goggles and sunglasses are now available with inserts and lenses can be made to prescription.
• If you are worried about your eyes after a ski holiday, then see an eye care professional as soon as possible.
• If you wear prescription glasses, you might like to switch to disposable contact lenses while on holiday to remove the possibility of eye damage from broken glass, in the case of a fall / accident.