Snow Blindness

a. Definition. Sunburn of the cornea.

b. Causes of Snow Blindness. There are two reasons Marines in a winter mountainous environment are at increased risk for snow blindness.

• High altitude. Less ultraviolet (UTV) rays are filtered out, UV rays are what cause snow blindness (as well as sunburn). So at altitude, more UV rays are available to cause damage.

• Snow. The white color of snow reflects much more LTV rays off of the ground and back into your face.

c. Signs and Symptoms of Snow Blindness.

• Hot, sticky, or gritty sensation in the eyes, like sand in the eyes.

• Headache may be severe.

• Excessive tearing.

d. Prevention of Snow Blindness. Prevention is very simple. Always wear sunglasses, with UV protection. If sunglasses are not available, then field expedient sunglasses can be made from a strip of cardboard with horizontal slits, and charcoal can be applied under the eyes to cut down on reflection of the sun off the snow.

e. Treatment of Snow Blindness.

• Evacuation, when possible.

• Wet compresses, if it is not too cold, may help relieve some of the discomfort.

• Healing normally takes two days for mild cases or up to a week for more severe cases.

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