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Question:
I was out all day hunting in the white snow. It was cloudy for the most part but the sun came out and I didn't have my sunglasses. When I got home I was not seeing right. Now, after a night’s sleep, colors don't seem right—reds are browns and it’s making me nauseous. Could there be permanent damage to my eyes or will this fix itself?

Answer:
This is difficult to answer without an examination of the eyes, so I would encourage a full examination by your ophthalmologist. However, assuming your only exposure was reflected light from the snow, I doubt that there would be permanent damage to your eyes. This is most likely "snow blindness" and is in effect ultraviolet light exposure from the direct sunlight and reflected sunlight. Intense sunlight especially reflected from the white snow surface, may injure the surface cells of the cornea (called epithelial cells) causing irritation, pain, redness, photophobia, and perhaps perceptual color change because of swelling of the surface corneal cells. Long term exposure (years) to ultraviolet light can contribute to changes within eye, but these changes are not the same as you describe. Your condition likely could have been prevented by wearing glasses (sunglasses or otherwise) with coatings to block ultraviolet light. I would encourage such glasses in these conditions.

Answered by: Ivan Schwab, MD Dr. Ivan Schwab

Categories: Eye Injuries

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Answered: Feb 07, 2013

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