These days most of us are aware of the damage the sun can do to our skin, but it can have an equally harmful effect on our eyes as well. Exposing your eyes to high levels of UV light without protection can cause what is known as photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn on your eyes. This guide will explain what photokeratitis is caused by, the symptoms to watch out for, and how to treat it so that you have all the knowledge you need to protect your eyes.
The most basic explanation for the question “what is photokeratitis” is that it’s a sunburn on your eyes, but it can be caused by several different things. Obviously, it can be caused by direct exposure to the sun’s rays, but it can also be caused by its reflection on ice, snow, sand, and water. Although it’s rarer, it can also be a result of exposure to a solar eclipse, which is why you need to use special glasses or viewing devices if you ever have the opportunity to watch one. In addition to the natural causes, man-made sources of UV light like tanning beds, UV lamps, and welding torches can result in photokeratitis as well. Wearing sunglasses and UV protective goggles is the best and easiest way to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Now that you’re aware of what photokeratitis is caused by, you need to understand the signs and symptoms so you can catch it early and minimize the damage. Although you usually won’t feel the symptoms until after the damage is done – similar to a sunburn on your skin – if you know what to look out for, you can seek treatment right away. The symptoms include:
- Eyelid twitches
- Halos in your field of vision
- Constricted pupils
- Light sensitivity
- Eyelid swelling
- Grittiness (feels like there is sand in your eye)
- Blurred vision
- Temporary vision loss in rare and severe circumstances
There’s no quick fix for photokeratitis, but there are a few ways to alleviate the pain and make yourself more comfortable. If you wear contacts, remove them immediately as they will only continue to dry out your eyes, and then get into a dark room to prevent further harm. You can also try out the following treatments for additional relief:
- Ask your optometrist for photokeratitis specific antibiotic eye drops
- Ask your optometrist for pain medication
- Use artificial tears to soothe the pain
- Close your eyes and place a cool, damp washcloth over them (make sure it is clean)
Want to protect your vision from harmful UV rays?
Pick up a pair of Rx or non-Rx sunglasses from Hakim Optical!
If you are overdue for a check-up, you can also schedule an eye exam with an expert optician!
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