A Clearer View

Latest treatment options and news about cataracts, dry eye syndrome and other eye care topics.

Sunburned Eyes Are a Real Risk of Summer Sun

by Damion Wasylow 30 June 2022 11:10 AM

woman in sunglasses posing on colorful deck
The summer sun is here. And while we all want to get out and enjoy the outdoors, be it a day at the beach or a walk in the park, there’s a hidden risk that most people don’t consider: sunburned eyes, also known as photokeratitis.

What is Photokeratitis?

Photokeratitis is a condition that typically occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage the eyes. The condition is often painful, much like a sunburn of the skin. However, with photokeratitis, it’s your corneas that get burned. 

Summer sun isn’t the only potential cause of photokeratitis, it can also be caused by laser lights, electric sparks, arc welding and even tanning beds. And, in snowy regions, it’s not uncommon to see cases of photokeratitis resulting from sun rays reflecting off the snow.

Photokeratitis Symptoms, Treatment and Risks

The symptoms that you experience from photokeratitis can include one or a combination of the following:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye redness
  • Eye pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Halos
  • Headaches
  • Eyelid twitching
  • Swollen eyes
  • Watery or teary eyes

In rare cases, you may also experience temporary vision loss or even vision color changes. Thankfully, most symptoms are short-lived, lasting only six to 24 hours before they subside. Almost all symptoms should dissipate within 48 hours.

Relieving discomfort in the short term is possible using Motrin or Advil. You can also apply a cold cloth to your eyes or use artificial eye drops. In severe cases, your eye doctor may determine that you’re at risk of an eye infection, requiring prescription eye drops.

Repeated exposure to elevated levels of UV-A and UV-B rays can cause both short-term and long-term eye damage. People who frequently expose their eyes to UV rays risk accelerated development of serious eye conditions including macular degeneration and cataracts.

Photokeratitis and Sunglasses

One way to greatly reduce your risk of photokeratitis is to protect your eyes with sunglasses. Over-the-counter sunglasses can be useful, but you must ensure they offer UV-A and UV-B protection. Low-cost sunglasses, like those sold at bargain retailers or convenience stores, rarely do, even when sold with a sticker that suggests otherwise. For sunglasses that offer reliable UV protection, you’re best off to go to your local optical shop

If you wear prescription eyeglasses, your optometrist or optician can fit you with a pair of prescription sunglasses. Or, if you prefer contact lenses, your eye doctor can advise you on contacts with built-in UV absorbing properties to shield your corneas from harmful rays. 

If you want to get outdoors this summer, and do so with your eyes’ best interests in mind, visit the optical shops at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care. We offer two convenient Gainesville optical shop locations: the corner of NW 8th Avenue and NW 43rd Street, and Tioga Town Center on Newberry Road.

Walk in or contact us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an appointment.



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