How to

21 November 2016

How Extreme Cold Affects Your Eyes & Vision

As winter closes in and temperatures plummet, you have two choices; wrap up warm and brave the elements, or become a shut-in for 3 months of the year. Needless to say, those who are able tend to opt for the former, but many people are surprised to hear of the negative effect this could be having on their eyes.

So, what exactly does happen to your eyes when subjected to extreme cold? And how does this affect your vision and overall health?

Impaired Vision

It stands to reason that, if your eyes themselves are affected by the cold, you will notice an impact on your vision. Drastically low temperatures can cause the blood vessels in the eye to constrict, or in some cases the cornea itself may freeze. Both of these occurrences can be extremely painful and have a highly detrimental effect on your vision. Treatment may be as simple as waiting for your eyes to return to a more stable temperature, but sometimes medication is required to replace lost moisture.

Pain & Inflammation

In addition to the threat of corneal freezing and restricted blood vessels, low temperatures and strong winds can also cause pain or discomfort in a number of ways. Dry eye is a severely uncomfortable condition related to such environments, caused by a combination of wind and low temperatures drawing moisture away from the eye. Many people also experience issues when partaking in winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding without proper eye protection, with the eyes becoming red, swollen and very painful. This can actually cause permanent damage, so a decent pair of protective goggles is crucial kit on the slopes.

Sunburn / Snow Blindness

Many people forget about the perils of UV radiation during winter, and this can end up being a massive mistake. While temperatures may be lower in winter, UV levels remain at a fairly consistent level all year round. In fact, due to the presence of snow and ice, which can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays, the level of UV radiation to which you are exposed during winter tends to be greater than during the summer months. Over-exposure of the eyes to UV radiation will actually cause the cornea to burn much like your skin would; this results in a condition known as photokeratitis, or snow blindness. While the condition is unlikely to result in complete blindness, it will negatively impact your vision to a dangerous extent, as well as causing a multitude of other symptoms including   pain, light sensitivity, swelling and headaches. Our advice? Invest in some decent eye protection before winter hits full-force.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.