Your eyes can get sunburned too Diagonale


Your eyes can get sunburned too

Our eyelids and the blink reflex have the function of protecting our eyes. But faced with exposure to UV rays, they are not enough. If you don't protect yourself, you could get a sunburn of the eye, called photokeratitis.

Photokeratitis is a form of radiation burn. This corresponds to an inflammation of the cornea (transparent tissue on the surface of the eye) and the conjunctiva (layer of tissue inside the eyelid and white of the eye) due to too much exposure to UV rays natural or artificial. It can affect one or both eyes.

This condition is reversible and usually does not impair long-term vision.


Sources of artificial UV are: tanning beds or booths, laser lights, office halogens, arc welding equipment, etc.


Risk factors

  • Long outdoor exposure without sun protection (sunglasses, hat).
  • Skiing without sun protection (blindness/snow blindness).
  • Swimming on a sunny day without sun protection (reflecting UV rays on the water).
  • Tanning in a tanning bed without protection.


To know :

Reflection on snow reflects up to 88% of UV and water around 10-20%.

The higher you go in altitude, the stronger the UV rays. Their intensity increases by 12% for every 100 meters of elevation.



In order to avoid photokeratitis or at least limit the symptoms, here are several ways to protect yourself.

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors: they should block approximately 99 to 100% of UV rays.
  • Wearing a hat outside: protects the face and eyes from sunburn.
  • Use adequate protective equipment at work: sunglasses if you are exposed to UV rays or protective goggles. Ask your employer for the equipment required depending on the specifics of the job.
  • Consider contact lenses that block UV rays: you can discuss this with your optometrist.



Symptoms may appear 6 to 12 hours after exposure and may last 24 to 48 hours. If the exposure has been very high, the symptoms may be more severe and last longer.

They appear singly or together.

  • Sore, red, watery eyes
  • Eye swelling
  • Headache
  • Halo effect
  • Blurred vision
  • Twitching of eyelids
  • Light sensitivity
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Alteration of perceived colors

Most symptoms disappear quickly. However, the condition can increase the risk of serious and permanent complications (AMD, cataracts, etc.).



As soon as symptoms appear, six actions to take first:

  • Go indoors as soon as possible.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Remove contact lenses.
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes so as not to create more irritation.
  • Place cold compresses (damp washcloth or gel mask) on the eyelids to alleviate symptoms.
  • Keep your eyes closed as much as possible and if you go outside wear sunglasses and a hat.


You must consult a doctor or optometrist as soon as possible and clearly explain the cause of the condition (natural or artificial, etc.). He will be able to assess the damage, propose a treatment plan and if necessary make a referral for an ophthalmologist.


Remember: When outdoors, always wear sunglasses. If you anticipate long exposure to the sun, wear a hat as well.