Can the Eyes Get Sunburned? By Gordon Wong, OD on May 24, 2020

Young smiling woman wearing sunglasses and spending time outsideSummer is here, and that means most individuals are protecting their skin against sunburn. But did you know that the eyes can get sunburned as well? In fact, they are just as vulnerable to sun damage as your skin. Photokeratitis is the clinical term for sunburned eyes, and it can be caused by exposure to harmful UV rays. These rays can bounce off of pavement, sand, and water, putting your eyes at even more risk.

At GW Eye Associates, serving La Jolla, CA , and other areas of San Diego, optometrists Gordon G. Wong and Wildon C. Wong discuss this topic and offer tips for proper eye care this summer.

Symptoms of Sunburned Eyes

When harmful UV rays enter the eye, damage can occur in several different areas, including the retina, cornea, lens, and conjunctiva. The longer your exposure to the sun’s rays, the more intense your symptoms may be. Some common symptoms of sunburned eyes include:

  • Redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Increase in tear production
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Constricted pupils
  • Temporary change in vision

Treating Sunburned Eyes

If you think you have sunburned eyes, it is a good idea to call a doctor right away for recommendations. Sunburned eyes typically heal on their own. However, there are a few things you can do to alleviate discomfort in the meantime:

  • If you wear contact lenses, remove them and let the eyes heal for a few days.
  • Place a cold compress over the eyes to soothe them and reduce inflammation.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed.
  • Use artificial tears to keep the eyes hydrated.
  • Avoid using eye cosmetics for a few days.
  • Protect your eyes from chlorine and saltwater while they heal.
  • Always wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from further damage.

How to Protect Your Eyes from Sunburn

Of course, it is best to prevent sunburned eyes altogether. Here are a few tips for protecting your eyes this summer:

  • Choose the right sunglasses. When shopping for sunglasses, choose a pair with 100 percent UV protection, against both UVA and UVB rays. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable options on the market. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, consider buying a pair with wraparound lenses for maximum protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat. In addition to sunglasses, wear proper headgear. A wide-brimmed hat can shield your eyes as well as your face, ears, neck, and scalp.
  • Sit in the shade when possible. Whether you are at the beach, the ballfield, or a family cookout, scope out spots where you can sit in the shade.
  • Wear eye protection, even on cloudy days. Even when it is overcast, UV rays are still just as strong as ever. Be sure you wear proper sun protection no matter the weather or time of year.

Contact Us for More Information

Before you hit the beach or plan your next outdoor event, make sure you are wearing the proper eye protection. To learn more about general eye care, reach out to one of our knowledgeable team members. Contact our La Jolla practice online anytime or call us at (858) 454-4699.

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GW Eye Associates

Our team at GW Eye Associates in La Jolla and Del Mar can provide a wide range of high-quality eye care services. Dr. Gordon G. Wong and Dr. Wildon C. Wong have over 45 years of combined experience and belong to several prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Optometric Association

For more information about our services, contact our office online or call us at (858) 454-4699 today.

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