Don’t cut corners on the piste when it comes to your eyes is the advice to skiers and snowboarders from experts at Specsavers. Remarkably, the most common skiing injury is not to legs or arms – but to eyes!
Despite the recession, more than 45,000 Irish people are expected to head for the slopes this 2013 ski season, and they are being warned to protect their eyes to avoid the risk of snow blindness.
Sun and snow can be a dangerous combination for eyes and opticians warn skiiers to wear the right eyewear with full coverage at all times while outdoors.
Skiiers and snowboarders at altitude are closer to the sun and that increases the level of harmful UV rays being directed at the face and eyes. 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 – is caused by 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, temporary loss of vision and pain are common symptoms of mild snow blindness.
Top tips for eye protection in the snow:
- Don’t assume that the sunglasses that you wear in the summer are suitable on the slopes. Specialist winter ski goggles are made from materials that can withstand cold conditions and will not break or shatter on impact.
- 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.
- Choose ski goggles with large wide lenses or sunglasses that wrap around your face, as your field of vision is important in winter sports
- The tint of the lens is very important. Go for yellow, orange, or rose 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.
- If you wear glasses, don’t attempt to ski or snowboard without them. Special ski goggles and sunglasses are now available with inserts and lenses can be made up to your 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.