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Articles Health Yes your eyes can get sunburnt too!
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Yes your eyes can get sunburnt too!

For those who have grown up in Australia the mantra of “Slip, Slop, Slap” and “No Hat, No Play” policies are second nature. We protect our skin from the dangers of sunburn, but, did you know you should also be protecting your eyes?

Sam Loughlin, Health Partners Optometrist, says eye sunburn, known as photokeratitis, often happens when sunlight is reflected off a surface (such as water or bright sand) and then up into our eyes. “Exposure to UV light causes damage to the front part of the eye which is a very sensitive tissue,” Sam says. “Eye sunburn is like sunburn to your skin in that often you don’t realise it has developed until after the damage is done. It can occur even on days that are overcast and can last anywhere between 1-3 days.”

Symptoms of photokeratitis include:

  • red and painful eyes
  • watery or blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • gritty feeling under the eyelids.

What to do if your eyes get sunburnt?

Unfortunately, like regular sunburn, you can’t undo the burn, but Sam says there are ways to relieve your symptoms.

How to treat sunburned eyes:

  • avoid direct sunlight and if possible, stay inside
  • place a cool wet compress over your eyes
  • use artificial tears or lubricating eye-drops
  • take oral pain relief as required
  • stop using contact lenses
  • don’t rub or touch your eyes
  • avoid wearing eye make-up.

Preventing eye sunburn

Sam says the best way to prevent photokeratitis is to wear sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet light.

“Not all sunglasses are made equal,” Sam warns. “Even polarised lenses may not protect you from UV. Instead, look for the UV light protection rating. This is usually found on the label or tag of the sunglasses and is a category rating from 0-4. Categories 0 and 1 do not provide sufficient UV light protection whereas Categories 2 and above do.”

Long-term concerns

Although there hasn’t been a lot of research into the long-term effects, some medical professionals believe photokeratitis may contribute to eye-diseases.

“It may be associated with cataract development, macular degeneration, pterygium and pinguecula growth (common non-cancerous growths on the surface of the eye), eye inflammation and potentially even some eye cancers,” Sam says.

For children, the risk may be even greater.

“If you get sunburnt eyes as a child, then you have more years during which abnormalities can occur,” Sam says. “UV light exposure in children may result in the development of potentially serious eye conditions later in life.”

So be safe, and when you or your children are outside, even on a cloudy day, remember to Slip, Slop, Slap and always Slide on some quality sunglasses.

If you have any concerns regarding your eye health book an appointment at Health Partners Optical.

Call Health Partners Optical for all your eye health needs.

The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided.

While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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