Too few of us are still concerned about the level of protection provided by our sunglasses. However, it is imperative to protect our eyes from the sun, especially when we go on holiday in the mountains, as snow reflects 80% of the UV rays transmitted by the sun. What are the risks of insufficient protection? How should you equip yourself properly?
Snow holidays: who's responsible for eye damage?
Prolonged and unprotected exposure to the sun can have many effects on the eyes. The consequences will differ according to the light spectra and wavelengths involved:
- Type B ultraviolet rays: they are responsible for eye burns, which can manifest themselves by redness, stinging, but also by more severe disorders such as retinal affections, keratitis or the premature development of a cataract
- Infrared (IR) radiation: can heat the eyelids, dry out the cornea and increase the risk of dry eyes
- Blue light: it causes glare and sometimes leads to poor colour perception (chromatic aberration).
Snow holidays: what are the risks for the eyes?
Excessive sunlight causes the eye to suffer a triple attack:
- Direct radiation: this fluctuates according to the seasons, geographical areas and altitude
- UV reflection: this varies according to the nature of the soil. For example, powdery snow reflects 85% of UV rays, compared with only 20% for beach sand. This phenomenon is the primary cause of snow ophthalmia (see below)
- Glare: this is due to the reflection of the sun's rays, which causes visual discomfort and eye pain. The consequences can be serious: a drop in visual acuity, disturbance of colour vision and perception of relief, etc.
What is snow ophthalmia?
It is a corneal injury that causes a burning sensation, with the impression of a foreign body under the eyelid, followed by severe tearing and discomfort with light. This condition occurs mainly when exposed to intense radiation, as may be the case in the snow. Although it can be worrying in its manifestations, it does not usually lead to sequelae, but may require prolonged isolation in the dark.
Snow holidays: why are children more at risk?
Everyone needs suitable sun protection, but children must be protected from the sun's rays. This is because the lens of younger people does not filter UV rays properly. Before the age of 10, the crystalline lens allows 75% of UV rays to pass through, compared to 10% after the age of 25... Hence the need to wear a mask or goggles on the ski slopes, and outside!
Snow holidays: how to choose the right glasses?
Wearing sunglasses remains the only possible alternative to reduce the risk of visual damage. But you still need to choose quality equipment. Here are some tips on how to choose the right sunglasses or goggles:
- give preference to organic lenses. Polycarbonate lenses are more suitable for sports, as they are lighter and unbreakable
- check that the glasses are CE marked
- opt for protection 3 or 4 for a snow holiday
- check for the presence of UV filters
- Prefer wide frames, which limit the passage of radiation.