Is it possible for your eyes to get sunburned? Yes—and we’re referring to the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the iris to protect the inner structure of the eye. Because the cells in the cornea behave like skin cells, they suffer the same fate—sunburn is a great possibility, especially if your eyes are exposed to bright light sources.
Radiation from the sun in the form of UV rays can inflict harm not only the skin causing photo-aging, age spots, wrinkles and even skin cancer, it can also harm your eyes. Two main types of UV rays—UV-A and UV-B are notorious culprits. UV-A rays can harm your central vision and damage the macula (the part of the retina at the back of your eye). UV-B rays with longer wavelengths can actually cause even more harm and is responsible for cornea sunburn.
If you’re looking for a technical term, the word is photokeratitis. Any prolonged exposure to sunlight (anytime from 3 to 12 hours) can do that. UV-rays reflecting off bright surfaces such as bodies of water, snow, sand or bright surfaces can also cause cornea sunburn. However radiation is not just limited to the sun. Other examples include powerful light sources such as the photographer’s flood lamp, the sun lamp in the tanning booth, the halogen lamp or even the welder’s arc.
Symptoms can be mild or severe. Tell-tale signs include pain in the eyes, light sensitivity, tearing, blurry vision or bloodshot eyes. In severe cases, especially prolonged exposure to bright reflecting surfaces such as snow, temporary blindness can set in for a day or two.
Although you can’t lather sunscr
According to the American Optometric Association, it is highly advisable and downright smart to don protective eyewear, whenever you’re out and about, even on cloudy days. Look for sunglasses or contact lenses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection and cut off 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
The effort is minimal. You may even look stylish in trendy sunglasses and you can definitely save yourself some eye-grief in the long run. Cornea sunburn can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, tumors and formation of Pinguecula (unsightly yellow bumps on white of the eye.
If you’re looking for a pair of protective sunglasses, read this: Protective UV Sunglasses: How to Choose a Good Pair