We are all used to protecting our eyes from the summer sun, but remarkably, the most common skiing injury is not to legs or arms – but to eyes! It’s not flailing ski sticks that pose the threat either, but high levels of ultra-violet (UV) light that can enter and burn your eyes, even on cloudy days. UV levels are highest when the atmosphere is very clear – such as on the ski slopes and the problem is made worse by snow which reflects light.
Thankfully this type of eye damage – which is like sunburn of the eyes – is usually only temporary, but it can cause serious discomfort. In severe cases it can cause snow-blindness. So, to protect your eyes and ensure you can see clearly while skiing it’s essential to use the right type of goggles or sunglasses.
You should look for sunglasses or goggles that protect your eyes from UV light, and the harmful rays to guard against are UVA and UVB. Short-term exposure to these can result in painful sunburn of the eyes called photokeratitis. Long-term, UV rays can damage your eyes permanently and lead to cataracts and other eye conditions, so you should seek out goggles and sunglasses that block at least 95 per cent of these rays.
Also, remember that most summer sunglasses are unlikely to be suitable for skiing. Sunglasses for winter sports are generally made from more pliant materials that withstand the cold and resist breaking or shattering on impact.
Polycarbonate lenses cost slightly more but are highly resistant to shattering and filter out a large proportion of UV light without additional coatings.
Peripheral vision is important for skiing, and ideally you should be able to see 180 degrees, so look for goggles with large, wide lenses, or wrap- around sunglasses with the least amount of distortion. Also, go for those that are yellow-orange or rose in hue, known as ‘blue-blockers’. These colours will enhance contrast and will improve your vision, while also cutting out glare from the sun.
Finally, if you do suffer from snow blindness while skiing your eyes will probably be red, itchy and sensitive to light. Staying indoors and resting the eyes can help speed recovery, but if the symptoms persist you should see an optometrist as soon as possible, and for more information on keratoconus treatment, pterygium eye surgery and laser treatment for eyes please go to https://revision.nz/ .