Anderson Cooper Temporarily Blinded by Sunburn of the Cornea

Most of you have probably experienced sunburn before and the pain and discomfort that come along with it. We all know that too much exposure to the sun is bad for our skin, but what about your eyes?


CNN News anchor Anderson Cooper knows exactly what too much sun exposure to the eyes feels like and the scary side effects it can cause. He was recently in Portugal, filming an assignment for 60 Minutes, and while there, sunlight reflecting off of the water caused sunburn of the cornea, or Photokeratisis. His retina was burned so badly that he was actually blinded for about 36 hours, USA Today reports.


Anderson shared his experience on Anderson Live recently, stating “I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire, my eyeballs and I think ‘oh maybe I have sand in my eyes or something.’ I douse my eyes with water. Anyway, it turns out I have sunburned eyeballs and I go blind. I went blind for 36 hours.”


After the incident, Anderson consulted with NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who shared that what happened to Anderson is similar to how sunlight reflecting off of snow can burn the eyes of skiers and snowboarders.


If you are surprised to hear that your eyes can be sunburned, you are not alone. GalTime shares that a survey conducted by the American Optometric Association discovered that “35 percent of Americans are unaware of the risk UV radiation poses to their eyes.” Everyone, regardless of age, is at risk of short and long-term problems as a result of sunburned eyes. Those issues include temporary blindness, the development of cataracts, and possibly macular degeneration.


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Fortunately, protecting your eyes and the eyes of your family members is as simple as it is to protect your skin from the sun. The American Optometric Association suggests wearing quality sunglasses that block out 75 to 90 percent of visible light and at least 95 percent of UVA radiation and 99 percent of UVB radiation respectively. It also advises wearing a wide-brimmed hat. You should use this protection on both sunny and cloudy days.


So how do you know if you or one of your children have sunburned eyes? Below is a list of some common symptoms:

  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Tearing
  • Pain or a gritty feeling in your eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Temporary blindness


If you do suspect a case of sunburned eyes, it is advised that you stay out of the sun for a while and use lubricating eye drops to help ease the feeling of irritation for a few days until the symptoms subside. If the pain and irritation persist for a while, or if they get worse, you should contact your eye doctor or family physician immediately.


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