Can Eyes Get Sunburned?

Can Eyes Get Sunburned?

Can Eyes Get Sunburned?Exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun or artificial sources, like a tanning bed, can be damaging to your vision. The risk of sunburn on your skin and eyes is high. However, your eyes do not get sunburned the same way your skin does. They will not turn pink or red or become a darker color. And they certainly don’t start peeling.

When the eyes get sunburned, this usually means that the retina or cornea gets damaged. The retina is the layer in the back of the eye that is very sensitive to light. The cornea is the clear film covering your iris, the colored part of your eye.

Have you ever looked directly at the sun? The way you most likely react is by squinting your eyes or shielding them with your hand. It isn’t a comfortable feeling! In a sense, the UV rays hurt your eyes so much that you do not want to stare at the sun for too long. This is something that you shouldn’t do anyway. If you damage your retina, you could impair your vision or even become blind.

How Light Affects Your Eyesight

The term used to describe eyes that have been damaged by natural or artificial UV rays is called “photokeratitis.” What a mouthful! There is a variety of other terms to describe this eye condition, some that are easier to pronounce than others. Each term describes the different ways exposure to light can negatively affect a person’s eyesight.

For instance, “flash burn” or “welder’s flash” is used when eyesight is affected by a sudden rush of UV light. It usually comes from something like a welder’s torch. Snow blindness is a way to describe photokeratitis that is caused by the reflection of the sun’s UV rays off the snow.

No matter what you call it when eyes are “sunburned,” it means that the corneas have been damaged. It could be by either natural or artificial ultraviolet rays. Symptoms of sunburned eyes include severe pain, teary eyes, and the feeling as if there is sand in your eyes. Your eyesight also becomes even more sensitive to light.

Cataracts are another condition that may occur when your eyes are exposed to direct light over a long period of time. Cataracts develop slowly over several years and can eventually lead to blindness. If you see someone with cloudiness in one or both eyes, they most likely have cataracts. This eye condition is a typical sign of aging, as it is more commonly seen in older adults.

When it comes to proper eye protection from the harmful UV rays, most people turn to sunglasses or other protective eyewear.

Companies bombard us with advertisements that insist that sunglasses are the best solution for protecting your eyes from the sun. Always make sure your sunglasses protect 100 percent of the UV rays from the sun. Perhaps you thought that wearing wide-brim hats, sunglasses, or goggles are the only ways to effectively prevent sunburns. While these protective items are important, they aren’t the only solutions.

Healthy Diet, Healthy Vision

Do you remember the countless times your mother reminded you to eat your carrots? Well, she was right! Vitamin A, found in carrots, keeps your retinas healthy and your vision clear. It can also prevent cataracts. 

Vitamin C is another important antioxidant that can prevent cataracts. You can get vitamin C from orange juice, collard greens, and other leafy greens.

Like other parts of your body, your eyes greatly benefit from a healthy diet. There are actually 17 essential vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that can help you maintain healthy vision, including vitamins A and C. Scientific research has proven that these 17 vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements can prevent cataracts, as well as other debilitating eye conditions such as glaucoma.

When it comes to eye-sunburns, starting with healthy eyes is key. If your eyes are already damaged or deficient in nutrients, they  won’t be able to combat the sunburn. They’re more likely to become damaged and won’t heal as quickly. Preventing sunburn damage starts with your diet. 

How to Treat Impaired Vision

If you notice that your eyes have likely been sunburned, start first aid on your eyes. That means getting out of the sun or artificial light. Allow your body temperature to cool off if it’s hot and avoid rubbing your eyes. Remove any contact lenses you may be wearing and go see your eye doctor. 

Many people use eyeglasses or contact lenses to improve their eyesight. Did you know that wearing contact lenses on a regular basis could worsen your eyesight? As the years go by, your prescription might have gotten stronger because your eyesight has become weaker. Corrective lenses do not improve your natural eyesight; they simply help you see well. Once you take them off, however, your vision is blurry. Your vision has not been cured.

Some people shell out the money to get LASIK eye surgery. But after a few years, they have to go back to wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. They probably spent thousands of dollars on this surgical procedure. Even if LASIK eye surgery successfully corrected their vision for 10 years, it was still just a temporary fix. Again, surgery did not cure their impaired vision. 

Healthy Habits for Better Eyes

Another solution to treating impaired vision is with exercise, which is a less common method that people use. A healthy diet combined with regular eye exercises can literally change the way you view the world! How do you exactly exercise your eyes, you wonder?

You can do exercises that specifically target the eyes’ muscles. These exercises focus on improving flexibility and agility. Strong and flexible eye muscles are able to contract and relax faster. This is necessary for focusing on something far away and then something close right after. Simply adding five minutes every day of eye exercises can significantly improve your eye health. 

Of course, getting outside isn’t the only way to damage your eyes. We do plenty of damage sitting in our offices all day, too. That’s why it’s so important to consider how we protect our eyes from environmental factors. Prevention is the key to protecting your eyes from UV rays. You have many options that can help you improve or maintain your vision. Remember: diet and exercise are not just for your muscles and your heart! They also keep your eyesight healthy and sharp.

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  1. Avatar for Tyler Sorensen Robby Cottle says:

    – 4.5 left eye,, – 1.5.right eye, sunburned retina left eye, and astigmatism left eye. Should I just get a white cane with red tip, o rf is Lasik good for me?

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About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics (just like his brother) with the dream of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he joined Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent nearly two decades studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.


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