Be Careful What You See: Understanding Photokeratitis And How To Prevent It From Occurring

Healthy eyes can be damaged by outside sources. Photokeratitis is a painful condition that is totally preventable. Knowing what causes photokeratitis and understanding the condition will help you protect your eyes and eyesight.

What is photokeratitis?

Photokeratitis is a sunburn of the eye. This condition is caused by exposure to invisible rays of energy known as ultraviolet rays.

This painful condition develops when the thin surface layer of the cornea of the eye is exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays. The conjunctiva of the eye, which includes the inside of the eyelid as well as the white part of the eye, is also affected.

Natural sources of photokeratitis

Staring at the sun or seeing the sun reflecting off of water and sand are natural causes of photokeratitis. The condition can also occur as the result of watching a solar eclipse without proper eye protection.

Snow blindness is another form of photokeratitis. This is caused by the sun reflecting off of snow and ice. It is more common in high mountain areas. Air is thinner in high altitude regions and provides less protection from ultraviolet rays.

Freezing temperatures combined with extremely dry air can also cause the condition. This occurs due to the cornea freezing or becoming extremely dry. It is typically seen in those who participate in skiing, snowmobiling, and mountain climbing activities.

Man-made sources of photokeratitis

Arc welding, tanning beds, and tanning lamps are examples of man-made sources of ultraviolet rays that can damage the eyes when proper eye protection is not worn.

Symptoms of photokeratitis

Like a sunburn of the skin, you may not notice symptoms immediately following the exposure. Several hours later, you may develop pain, burning, redness, blurred vision, seeing halos, eyelid twitching, temporary vision loss, gritty feeling in the eyes, and headaches.

Diagnosis and treatment of photokeratitis

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes and discuss your recent activities with you. Your eye doctor may use a special eye drop that contains fluorescein dye to check for UV damage.

The condition will usually clear up on its own within a few days. Measures will be taken to make you comfortable until the burn clears up. You may need to use special eye drops, stay in a dark room, take pain relievers, and place cold compresses on the eyes for relief.

Preventing photokeratitis

When you know you will be exposed to ultraviolet rays, you should always wear eye protection. Look for sunglasses that block most UV rays. The same is true of ski googles. When welding, always use a professional welder's helmet.

Protecting your eyes is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Along with regular eye exams, always use protective eyewear to avoid burning and damaging the eyes. It's a small step that will save you hours of pain and suffering later. For more advice, speak with professionals like