Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned? What to Know About Photokeratitis

Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned? What to Know About Photokeratitis

Sunglasses are useful for more than just looking cool by the pool. And even though they can be beneficial in protecting your eyes, they’re not a perfect defense. Photokeratitis is a form of sunburn that affects the eye. It occurs when the eyes are exposed to bright sunlight, damaging the eye and your ability to see clearly. And beyond robbing you of your ability to see, the condition causes pain as well.

Many patients report a sensation they describe as having glass shards in their eyes. The condition also causes blurred vision, redness, becoming very sensitive to bright light, and sometimes even loss of vision. UV rays such as the sun produces can be very damaging to your eyes, as photokeratitis demonstrates.

When the eyes, specifically your corneas, are overexposed to UV radiation, which is present in all natural light from the sun, this can damage the cells. While sunburn on your skin can just be itchy and painful, and usually heal without issue, these burns on the cornea are much more serious. And it can come at your eyes from surprising directions, such as below. Light reflecting off the ground, the water on the bay, even snow on a ski slope, can over expose your corneas to UV rays and leave you in trouble.

While most cases of photokeratitis aren’t permanent, you should take steps to avoid exposure. And if you do end up with it, consult a doctor immediately.

Key Points:

  • 1You need to protect your eyes from sunburn.
  • 2UV rays can cause inflammation to your corneas.
  • 3It is not enough to not just stare at the sun also be aware of sunlight reflecting off of surfaces like pools or snow.


The longer your eyes are exposed to UV rays, the more severe the symptoms can be, says Lee.
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