Dr. Jim Martin 05/09/2016

shielding-eyes.pngWhat's not to like about a perfectly sunny day, especially as we head into the warmer months? But you also know that too much of a good thing can be harmful. In this case, too much sun can be hard on your skin if you don't take the proper precautions.It can also be hard on the eyes. Did you know that your eyes can sunburn too? It's a condition called photokeratitis and it happens more frequently during the summer months.

How Do Eyes Become Sunburned?

Long hours in the sun will expose your eyes to strong ultraviolet rays, which can cause your eyes to sunburn. The sun's rays reflect off of water, pavement or sand directly into your eyes, damaging the outside layer of cells. Another common form of photokeratitis is snow blindness; you've probably also heard of “welder's flash.”

How Do I Know If My Eyes Are Sunburned?

Sunburned eyes can be very painful, which is one clear indication that you may have sunburned yours. Other symptoms include watering, itching, dryness, grittiness, blurred vision, and a sensitivity to light. As it does with your skin, sunburn in your eyes occurs painlessly; only later do you begin to notice pain and other symptoms.

Can Sunburn Damage My Eyes?

Besides the aggravating symptoms listed above — as well as potentially ruining a summer vacation — excessive sun exposure can lead to serious eye conditions, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and even eye or eyelid cancer. If your eyes become infected, permanent scarring can occur if left untreated. Common photokeratitis will usually heal itself on its own as the eye rids itself of damaged cells and creates new ones. But, again, it can lead to long-term damage.

What Should I Do If My Eyes Become Sunburned?

You should see an eye doctor right away if you're experiencing any of the symptoms of sunburned eyes. Your optometrist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent an infection. Eye drops can also ease the symptoms, while resting the eyes from activities like reading or watching television can help aid the healing process.

How Can I Protect My Eyes From Sunburn?

Having a high-quality pair of sunglasses is a must for most activities in the sun, including skiing, sailing, and sunning on a beach or in your backyard. Eye specialists recommend sunglasses that block 95 percent of both types of ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). An important point to remember is that clouds don't block ultraviolet rays, so wear eye protection even on cloudy days.

Broome Optical's mission is to provide superior eye care to the people of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. Broome Optical sells a wide variety of prescription and nonprescription sunglasses.  Schedule an appointment to see what we can do to help protect your eyes from getting sunburned.

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