Snow blindness, or solar/ultraviolet keratitis, is essentially sunburn of the cornea, caused by too much unprotected exposure to the sun. The amount of light on a snow covered mountain can exceed up to 15 times the amount of light that is safe for your eyes, so good quality sunglasses should always be worn, even in cloudy conditions. It is best to wear either goggles or large, close-fitting glasses with side shields, because these don’t permit any exposure at all, even by accident. They should also be able to absorb 99-100% of harmful UV rays.
The symptoms of snow blindness only appear eight hours after the damage was done. The eyes will feel very sore and dry, as if they are full of sand, causing decreased and possibly hazy vision. Eye movement will be painful, as will exposure to light (photophobia.) Eyelids will swell, and eyes will become red and produce fluid. A headache may also be present. To treat, use cold compresses and rest in a dark environment, such as a tent if possible. Do not rub the eyes – it may cause long lasting damage and scarring.
The cornea, the outer layer of the eye which protects the rest, can freeze when exposed to cold temperatures and high winds without protection. To treat, place a warm compress (or hand) over the effected eye. After thawing, eyes must be completely covered for 24-48 hours.
Eye lash freezing
When the eyes water and the external temperature is below freezing the water can freeze eyelashes together, inhibiting vision. Simply place a hand over the affected eye until the ice melts and then re-open the eye.