Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned?
The next time you get ready to head to the beach or ski slopes without protective eye gear, take a moment to remember that eyes can get sunburned the same way skin can.
Severely sunburned eyes are caused by overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays, like those emitted by the sun. This condition is known as photokeratitis.
- age-related macular degeneration
- eyelid cancer
When your eyes get too much exposure to UV light, temporary sunburn or permanent damage can happen in several areas, including:
- the thin, surface layer of the cornea
The conjunctiva is a thin, mucus membrane comprised of two sections. One section covers and protects the whites of the eye (bulbar conjunctiva). The other section covers the inner surface of the upper and lower eyelids (palpebral conjunctiva). Either or both sections can become sunburned.
- blurry vision
- sensitivity to bright light
- seeing halos
- eye pain
- twitching sensation in the eyelid
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your eyes are protected by blinking, or from not staring directly into the sun.
Sun can reflect off of water and sand, causing UV exposure. This can happen in the following locations.
In the city
If you’re stuck in the city, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can go without the right gear.
Sunlight can also reflect off of buildings, cars, and concrete streets. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a bright sunny day or a hazy one. UV rays can affect your eyes and skin through the cloud cover.
Sunlight can also reflect off of ice and snow. If you participate in sports such as mountain climbing, snowboarding, or skiing, you’re at risk for photokeratitis if you don’t protect your eyes. This type of photokeratitis is known as snow blindness.