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What You Should Know About Photokeratitis

With summer in full swing (and an ongoing pandemic) most of us are outdoors quite a bit these days. And, while we’re aware of the dangers of the sun to our skin, you might not know that sunlight can also cause damage to your eyes. In fact, long-term exposure to sunlight can cause several eye conditions and diseases, from cataracts to photokeratitis.

Photokeratitis, a painful eye condition, occurs when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or a man-made source are exposed to the eyes. Essentially, it’s a sunburn of the eye. This condition may cause temporarily or long-term damage to two important parts of the eye. This includes the conjunctiva (the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids) and the cornea (the clear portion of the eye in front of the pupil). Continue on to learn more about photokeratitis, including signs and symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Causes and Symptoms

Most cases of photokeratitis are caused by the sun’s UV rays reflecting off of sand, water, ice, or snow. It can also occur if you stare at the sun directly without using protective eyewear, such as watching a solar eclipse. Man-made causes, like tanning beds and lamps, lasers, and welding equipment, can also cause this condition. Also, people who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as cyclists and swimmers, may be more likely to experience photokeratitis.

Photokeratitis feature

Most cases of photokeratitis are caused by the sun’s UV rays reflecting off of sand, water, ice, or snow.

Furthermore, the longer you are exposed to UV light, the more severe the eye condition will be. In rare instances, photokeratitis may cause temporary color changes in your vision. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain/redness
  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Swelling
  • Tearing
  • Eyelid twitching
  • Seeing halos
  • Sensitivity to light

Treatment Methods

Fortunately, most cases of photokeratitis do not require medical attention as symptoms tend to resolve on their own in a day or two. However, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience a loss of vision or pain lasting more than 2 days. To lesson your symptoms of mild photokeratitis at home, utilize the following measures:

  • Put yourself in a dark room
  • Remove any contact lenses
  • Use artificial tear drops
  • Place a cold cloth over your closed eyes
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes
  • Take over the counter pain relievers
  • Seek medical attention if you experience a loss of vision or pain lasting more than 2 days

Preventing Photokeratitis

With the right precautions and eye protection, lowering your risk of photokeratitis is pretty simple. So, start shielding your eyes against the sun’s harmful rays and keep the following safety tips in mind:

  1. Wear protective sunglasses or goggles that block or absorb 99-100% of UV rays. Remember to keep them on while spending time outdoors, even if it’s cloudy or overcast.
  2. Wear a visor or wide-brimmed hat when outdoors.
  3. If your job or hobby exposes you to UV radiation, use proper eye protective equipment, such as snow goggles, wrap-around eyeglasses, or a welding helmet.

Your vision matters! At Looking Glass Optical, we’ll help you find the perfect pair of sunglasses or protective lenses this summer. Schedule an appointment now to browse our selection of eyeglasses in person.

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