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Eye Injuries and Snowball Fights

Avoid eye injuries from snowball fights. Pittsburgh has seen a good dose of winter already.  We’ve encountered delays and school closings due to the arctic temperatures. But those same winter conditions are ripe for eye injuries received as a result of a good snowball fight.

The fact is that children and adults will always enjoy a good romp in the snow, making snow forts, snow angels sledding and throwing snowballs. So, please play it safe and avoid eye injuries.  Never aim for the head and do not use snowballs that contain chunks of ice or other debris.

During the winter season, emergency room doctors see a number of injuries related to sports like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and sledding. Regular eyeglasses and contact lenses do not offer adequate protection from sports-related eye injuries. We recommend the use of protective eye wear for winter sports, including downhill skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.  The lenses are made with polycarbonate lenses, so they’re impact resistant and good for all sports.

On a sunny day on the ski slopes, the snow can create sun glare that is harmful to your eyes.  In addition to tinted goggles for skiing, it’s good to have a pair of sunglasses on hand for hanging out in the lodge. Ski goggles help to protect your eyes from wind and ice particles, as well as minimize injury during a fall.

Cold-related injuries common to winter and snow sports that related to cold and wet conditions include:

•           Blisters on toes, heels and feet caused by the friction of wet socks and badly fitting footwear can cause blisters on

•           Sprains and strains and soft tissue injuries due to less elasticity in ligaments causing injuries in knees, shoulders and wrists due to falls while skiing, snowboarding or ice skating.

•           Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 35°C. Symptoms include: shivering, drowsiness and lack of coordination. The person may lie down to rest, lapse into unconsciousness and die if not treated quickly.

•           Frostbite – this occurs when the tissues of the skin freeze. Ice crystals in and around skin cells block the movement of blood through the fine blood vessels (capillaries), which means the skin is deprived of oxygen and nutrients and dies.  We’ve seen some of that on the news recently.

•           Sunburn – ultraviolet radiation is present, even in cold and cloudy conditions. This, and the reflections off the snow, can cause sunburn to exposed skin. What many people may think is ‘windburn’ is actually sunburn.

•           Snow blindness – this is sunburn of the cornea of the eye, caused by ultraviolet radiation. Symptoms include painful, watery eyes and temporary blurring of vision equipment.

Most cold related injuries can be prevented with planning, adequate preparation and proper equipment.

About the author:  John D.  Bissell, owner of Bissell Eye Care and Tri-State Low Vision Services, offers comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family, ocular disease detection and treatment, eye glasses, sun glasses, active wear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. He has undergone specialized training for treatment of low vision by the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists utilizing customized telescopic eyeglasses, prisms and telescopic implants for patients who qualify.  The practice accepts most types of vision and health insurance plans.