Can Your Eyes Get a Sunburn?

We know all about the dangers of the sun to our skin. As a result we slather on the highest SPF possible and make it a point to wear hats and long sleeves. Our goal is to greatly reduce our exposure to the sun and ultimately reduce the probability of developing skin cancer.

But what do you do if you can’t put sunscreen on an area. For example, you cannot apply sunscreen to your eyes. The truth is you can get sunburnt on your eyes. In fact, just like your skin it can cause extensive damage in the long run.

Photokeratitis is the result of extensive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. It can cause blurred vision, along with burning eyes. These damaging UV rays come from more than just the sun. They can also be the result of the rays reflecting off of water and sand.

What are the symptoms of sunburnt eyes?

A person who is experiencing sunburn of the eyes will feel pain and a burning sensation. They might also notice a gritty feeling, redness and swelling, and watery eyes. Oftentimes individuals with sunburn of the eyes will also have blurred vision, sensitivity to light, a glare or halor when they look at lights, and headaches.

Oftentimes these symptoms will resolve within 48 hours, however, if they last longer it is recommended that you contact our office immediately. We will bring you in for an exam and determine if you might need additional treatment.

While you’re recovering it’s important that you give your eyes a little extra TLC.

Start by staying inside and wearing sunglasses to help ease the light sensitivity you’re experiencing. It also helps to keep your eyes moist with preservative-free artificial tears. Over the counter pain relievers often help to relieve any pain you might be experiencing.

We also recommend patients not rub their eyes or wear contact lenses as this can exacerbate the irritation and lead to the need for a longer healing time. Finally, we suggest you soothe any burning or itching by placing a cool cloth over your eyes.

What is the long-term effect of UV exposure?

Prolonged exposure to UV rays can have a long-term effect on the health of your eyes. It can lead to a deterioration of the cells and eventually lead to cataracts. The only way to completely protect yourself if by wearing UV protecting sunglasses, along with a hat. Remember, not all sunglasses protect from UVs and these harmful rays are present even on cloudy days.

Give us a call or schedule an appointment to find the best sunglasses for your needs. We’ll get you set up with a pair that will adequately protect you and make you look great.

Dr. Paul D. Trapeni JrAt The Optical Shoppe, we're dedicated to optometry excellence under the guidance of Dr. Paul D Trapeni. Serving the Smyrna community since 1989, Dr. Trapeni is a trusted member of the community, bringing general and specialized optometry care to individuals and families throughout the area.