Cold Temperatures Affecting your Eyes

Eye injuries caused by cold exposure most often occur in individuals who try to force their eyes open in high winds, cold weather, or during activities such as snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.

Eye symptoms from cold temperature exposure include:

  • Eye pain.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Blurred or decreased vision.
  • Double vision.
  • Severe sensitivity to light (photophobia).

In rare cases, the cornea may freeze, which can lead to blurred vision, sensitivity to light, eyelid spasms (blepharospasm), excessive tearing, and pain when you try to rewarm the eye.

Snow blindness is not directly caused by cold temperatures but does occur in snow conditions. Sunlight reflecting off the snow causes a corneal injury or burn. Eyelids may become red and swell. The eyes may feel dry and as though they have sand in them.

Treatment includes rewarming the eye and medicine to moisten and protect the eyes.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised May 11, 2011

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