Just as your skin can suffer from sunburn, UV light can burn your eyes in a condition called photokeratitis. Most often, photokeratitis is caused by sunlight, but you are also at risk from UV rays reflecting off smooth surfaces, such as sand, water, snow, and ice, as well as from tanning lamps and beds.
Photokeratitis affects the clear front of the eye (the cornea) and the inner eyelids (the conjunctiva). Although it is rare for the condition to permanently damage your eyes, it can be a very painful experience.
Photokeratitis and Eye Sunburn Symptoms
It is usually difficult to notice that your skin is becoming sunburnt — and the same is true for the eyes. You will often only know that you are suffering from photokeratitis after your eyes are already damaged and symptoms become apparent, explains Eye Smart. Along with pain, symptoms can include:
- A sensation of grit in eye
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Blurry or haloed vision
- Swollen and twitching eyelids
- Small pupils
- In rare cases, temporary vision loss
Symptoms usually last between one and two days, their severity varying according to exposure to UV light. Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can aggravate symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think you are suffering from photokeratitis, go inside to a dark room and remove your contact lenses, if you wear any. You may be able find relief by placing a cold washcloth over your closed eyes and by using artificial tears. After this, you should see an ophthalmologist for diagnosis. Your doctor will ask about your recent activities, check for damage using fluorescein dye, and may prescribe pain relievers or antibiotic eyedrops.
How to Protect Eyes from Photokeratitis
To avoid photokeratitis, the American Optometric Association recommends wearing shades that:
- Block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
- Screen 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
- Have no imperfections that cause distortion.
- Feature gray lenses.
All the shades in Real Kids’ collection block 100 percent of UV rays. Check out our full range to find a pair to protect your child from photokeratitis.