Sunburn isn’t just a skin condition – it can happen to your eyes, too!
Jun 21, 2018
Protect Your Eyes
You can’t see it, but you can feel it. No, it’s not the breeze, it’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The sun’s invisible rays of energy can cause ultraviolet keratitis, or photokeratitis, a painful eye condition. Not only can you get burned in the summer sun, but also in snowy winters.1
On days when the UV index is especially high, it’s even more important to protect your eyes. The UV index gives a rating on the strength of UV light in a certain location on a scale of 1 to 11+. The higher the number, the greater risk of exposure to harmful rays.2
Don’t worry though, there are ways to prevent “eye sunburn” from happening, or to spot the symptoms quickly and care for your condition.
A Natural Defense That Needs Defending
On the defense, the eye is shielded by the brow ridge, eyebrows and eyelashes. It’s even the most inward part of the anatomy of the head. An added measure to keep light out, our pupil’s natural response is to constrict in too much light. In extreme conditions though, it’s not enough. Strong ground reflection from the snow, water, sand and even tanning bed use can cause photokeratisis.3
Choose the Right Pair
The best way to avoid photokeratitis is to wear proper sunglasses. When buying sunglasses, the most important thing to look for is a sticker indicating they block 100% of UV rays. Something you should also look for is a pair that fits your face well and isn’t too loose, so more rays are blocked through the sides.4
If your eyes do get sunburned, just like skin, it’s painful. Some symptoms include:
A gritty feeling
Red, watery eyes
In most cases, these symptoms are temporary and should resolve themselves within 24 to 48 hours. However short the duration, this condition can lead to eye issues later in life if it frequently occurs, just like having too many sunburns. Sunlight causes a slow deterioration of cells that could lead to age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.5
If you find yourself with these symptoms, you should stay indoors while you recover. Ways to care for eyes are to keep them moist with artificial tears and remove contacts if you wear them. You may even find placing a cool damp cloth over your closed eyes is soothing. If symptoms last more than 24 to 48 hours, see your eye doctor immediately.5
Whether you are out in the water or on the slopes, protecting your eyes can help prevent this painful condition, and future ones, from developing. Enjoy the outdoors, but with an eye for your health!