Warm weather is finally here, and people of all ages are heading outdoors for summer activities. We all know the importance of sunscreen and its benefit for blocking harmful ultraviolet rays, but what about our eyes? Do we need to protect them? Most definitely.
Whether you are hiking and lounging on the beach, you need to protect your eyes. If you are overexposed to intense UV light, you can suffer photokeratitis. Photokeratitis (also known as UV keratitis) is an intensely painful condition that can temporarily impair your vision and can come about in as little as two hours of intense exposure. Besides blurry vision, other symptoms include “red eyes, a foreign body sensation or gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing.” Since the intensity of UV radiation increases with increasing altitude, if you are a hiker, or live in an area of higher elevation, you are slightly more at risk for photokeratitis. It has been said that for every 1,000 feet we climb in elevation the amount of UV radiation that reaches our eyes increases by 4 percent. Additionally, snow can appear at higher altitudes, reflecting even more harmful rays. This is sometimes called snow blindness.
Forget the snow. It is summer and you want the beach and water. Sand reflects 25 percent of UV light and water has the potential to reflect up to 100 percent. What can you do?
If you do experience photokeratitis, remove your contacts immediately if you wear them. Stay in a dimly lit room and avoid bright light either real or artificial. Apply cool compresses over the eyes. Lubricate the eyes with preservative free eye artificial tears. Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory.
Preventing eye sunburn is important. Be sure your sunglasses properly fit your face and offer enough UV protection. If you wear contacts, consider investing in a pair of prescription sunglasses.
Summers are supposed to be carefree so wear those sunglasses whenever you venture outdoors. If you do think you have eye sunburn, get it checked out promptly by your eye doctor.
Photo credit: Lindsay Lenard, Unsplash