Winter is the most favorable season to practice high mountain sports. Caring for eye health in these circumstances is essential so that the eye does not suffer serious damage and thus avoid possible loss of visual acuity. In addition, properly protect the eyes is essential to prevent possible eye diseases caused by the incidence of UV light in them.
Sports such as mountaineering, mountaineering, skiing or even some water sports can have serious consequences for the eyes, if they are not properly protected. For this reason, it is essential to follow all the ophthalmological advice to safeguard ocular health during the practice of mountain sports.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause severe vision problems when the eyes are exposed to them for a long time. Taking into account that snow is capable of reflecting 80% of ultraviolet radiation, it is easy to understand the need to protect the eyes in these circumstances. In addition, this radiation increases by 10% every 1,000 meters of altitude that adds to the adventure. Therefore, exposure in high mountain areas is really high.
Eye injuries due to solar radiation
Exposure to UV radiation can cause multiple damage to the eyes. The most frequent lesion is the photokeratitis and ophthalmia that occurs in the first barrier that finds light in the eye, the cornea. But if the exposure is constant, it can also damage other structures such as the lens or the retina.
Photokeratitis or ophthalmia
The most characteristic of eye injuries in mountain is undoubtedly the blindness of the snow, which is the popular name of photokeratitis or ophthalmia. It is a corneal inflammation, which occurs when the eyes have been subjected for hours to an excess of UVA and UVB radiation without protection. The corneal epithelium absorbs these harmful radiation and suffers damage. As a general rule, this condition affects both eyes and may appear up to 12 hours after exposure.
There are many signs that show a possible photokeratitis. The most common are:
Acute pain in the eyes
feeling of sand or foreign body
photophobia or hypersensitivity to light
notorious loss of visual acuity
In case any of these symptoms are noticed after exposure to ultraviolet radiation it is important to consult with the ophthalmologist so that you can act quickly with the appropriate treatment.
Photoconjunctivitis and pterygium
The conjunctiva of the eye can also be affected by UV radiation suffering an inflammation in conjunctivitis mode. In turn, this has a close relationship with the appearance or development of conjunctival tissue to the cornea (pterygium).
The lens absorbs UV radiation at wavelengths between 295 and 400nm. Prolonged exposure to this type of wave is associated with premature aging of the lens and the development of cataracts.
In the retina, important injuries can be produced by radiation of thermal origin (infrared IR) and chronic injuries by more energetic radiations such as UV and blue light (between 400 and 500nm) whose photons act as free radicals, generating photochemical deterioration, damage to the Retinal cells and macular degeneration.
On the other hand, the winter weather conditions are conducive to generate some damage to the eyes. For example, the wind, the cold and the dryness of heated environments can favor eye dryness. To avoid this type of affections it is important to keep the eyes protected and to use physiological serum to clean them properly. In case you notice the dry eye, artificial tears are a good solution.
Ocular prevention in high mountain
Both in the practice of mountain sports, such as aquatics, it is important to protect the eyes properly, in order to prevent the appearance of the possible eye conditions already mentioned. In addition, it is important to pay special attention to the health of children’s eyes, since the natural protection filter will not be fully developed.
The high protection sun glasses are the most important element to prevent the appearance of eye problems during the performance of mountain activities. In Europe there are five levels of protection, ranging from 0 to 4. In this case it would be essential to use glasses with UV filter 4 (maximum protection). The glasses must be worn both if the sun hits in a powerful way and if the day is cloudy. In addition, betting on polarized sunglasses is a good option. These lenses are prepared to minimize the reflections of light.
When it comes to buying some glasses to practice mountain or nautical sports it is essential to take into account some aspects. They must be marked with the CE symbol, which guarantees that they follow the standards established by the European Union. If they have side protection, the risks of UV exposure will be much better avoided and the material must be hard and impact resistant. A good optical optometrist can inform and advise which sunglasses are the most suitable for use in high mountain.