The harmful effects of UV radiation are clearly linked to the development of cataracts, retinal diseases and corneal problems. In winter, at higher altitudes and in bright sunshine, the white surface of the snow reflects UV radiation extremely well, so the eyes are exposed to high levels of UV radiation in a short period of time. Long-term eye damage may not occur in one or two skiing sessions but develops slowly, so it is very important to wear not just a simple pair of sunglasses, but glasses that offer protection from the sides as well,” warns Dr. Zoltán Zsolt Nagy, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Semmelweis University.

Protecting our eyes is important not only in summer but also in winter, because the harmful effects of UV radiation accumulate in the lens, the retina and, to a lesser extent, the cornea as well. The damage develops unnoticed, slowly, even over years. „The most common is cataracts, which usually do not affect both eyes equally, and often noticed only when the better-seeing eye has also developed a loss of vision, for example when driving at night,” explains the director. If the visual acuity drops from 100 percent to less than 50 percent, it can cause difficulties in everyday life.

“It is therefore very important to prevent these eye problems by using the right ski goggles. I recommend to wear quality accessories with UV-A and UV-B filters, which cover the eyes and their surroundings properly,” added Dr. Zoltán Zsolt Nagy.

In very rare cases, the so-called snow blindness can also develop. This can be caused by UV radiation from below in people who spend long periods of time, even days, in the sun on snowy mountains and their eyes are not adequately protected. This very grave eye complication can cause severe symptoms, the specialist stressed. The most common symptoms are poor visual acuity, glare, sensitivity to light, reddening of the eyes, tearing due to irritation, burning and stinging sensations,” he added. The symptoms typically disappear within a few days, but can cause permanent eye damage, so special glasses with stronger, darker lenses should be worn for any kind of high-altitude sports.

Eye health can be boosted with vitamins: vitamin C might protect against cataracts and B vitamins are essential for nerve tissue function. Vitamin D and E also play an important role in the process of vision.

Eszter Csatári-Földváry
Translation: Viktória Kiss

Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University
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