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Can your eyes get sunburned?

Can your eyes get sunburned?

Much like your skin, your eyes are very sensitive to the elements. In particular, the same way your skin can turn red, while covered in blisters and other signs of sunburn — you can also suffer eye damage when your vision is exposed to the sun’s rays without protective eyewear.
If you’re curious to learn more about how the eyes can get sunburned, we’ll be taking a look at the symptoms and causes of sunburn in the eyes, as well as the ways to protect your sight against it.

Common Causes

When excessive UV radiation comes in contact with your eyes, this can result in a condition called photokeratitis, more plainly known as a sunburn. Photokeratitis causes inflammation of the cornea i.e the whites of your eyes. 

It’s always a good idea to be mindful of the exposure your eyes receive, as sunburn can occur on sunny days, during overcast weather, or even across the winter months where snow blindness is more common.
Here are common causes of sunburn to the eyes:

Reflection from Water Surfaces

Spending time at the beach, going for a swim, or planning a weekend to fish, might sound like fun summer activities, but this time spent outdoors can do some damage to your eyes.
This is because of the sun’s nasty habit of bouncing off surfaces. Dangerous UV rays may hit the surface of the ocean, sea, pool, or sand to reflect into the eyes. This can lead to sunburn if correct sun protection isn’t used over the eyes.

Light from Buildings and Cars

You may steer clear of water surfaces, but this doesn’t always guarantee protection from sun rays. Your eyes can experience sensitivity to light from your morning commute, walks around your community, or from being outside around cars. This is because sun rays can reflect on mirrored buildings, concrete, or car surfaces, leaving the skin and eyes open to potential damage.

Tanning Beds

Tanning beds already get a bad rep for exposing the skin to high levels of UV light. This light can speed up your aging on your skin, and may even lead to skin cancer. Tanning beds can also pose damage to the cornea, even if you make the effort to close your eyes during the process.
Likewise, other artificial sources of UV light such as welding arcs can also damage your eyes when looked into directly.

Symptoms of Sunburned Eyes

Depending on how long your eyes are exposed to UV, you may experience symptoms of sunburn for anywhere between one to two days. The signs of photokeratitis include:
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Teary eyes
  • Sandy feel in the eyes
  • Swelling in each eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Smaller pupils
  • Halos in the eyes
  • Twitching eyes

In extreme cases, sunburn can lead to temporary blindness. These serious cases could also cause permanent damage to the eyes.

How to Protect Against Sunburned Eyes

If your eyes ever get sunburned, simply waiting for the symptoms to subside may be all you need for your vision to return to normal. However, in cases where your eyes remain red, sensitive to light, or display other symptoms of sunburn, eye drops, cool compresses, and prescribed medication can help to manage the discomfort.
However, making sure to protect your eyes can help with avoiding sunburn to begin with. This can be achieved by:
  • Wearing sunglasses that absorb close to 100 percent of UV rays
  • Sporting hats or baseball caps when engaging in activities outdoors
  • Putting on protective goggles when using a tanning bed
  • Wearing protective helmets while using welding equipment, or carrying out activities that produce artificial UV light

Benefits of Wearing Contact Lenses When in the Sun

To guard against sunburn, cataracts, age-related macular generation, and other consequences of exposure to UV lights, one effective measure to take is to wear contact lenses when out in the sun.
UV protection through contact lenses designed for that purpose can offer special care against dangerous rays. This is especially true because sunglasses alone can sometimes leave blind spots that make it possible for these rays to penetrate the eyes. 
WALDO contact lenses offer protection against harmful ultraviolet rays. Our contacts provide 83% cover against dangerous UV-A rays, while coverage against 97% UV-B rays is guaranteed.
In addition to this, our daily lenses are hygienic and effective options, providing necessary moisture, comfort, and oxygen for the eyes.

In Conclusion

Spending time outdoors is a great pastime. However, without the right protection this time outside could also pose some danger to your eyes, especially when challenges like sunburns are considered.
Wearing the right protective equipment against UV rays, particularly contact lenses designed for that purpose can offer the right shield against the sun and sun damage.
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