Burning, Swollen Eyes After A Day Outdoors? It Might Be Photokeratitis Instead Of Allergies. Here's Why It's Important


If your eyes are burning, itching, and inflamed after a day spent out in the sun, you may be suffering from photokeratitis. It's a common affliction among both beachgoers and snow skiers. Both sand and snow reflect sunlight back up towards you, including the ultraviolet rays that emanate from it — these ultraviolet rays are what cause photokeratitis.

While photokeratitis is typically not serious, it's a sign that you aren't taking proper care of your eyes when you're outdoors. This increases the risk that you will develop more significant eye problems in the future. To learn more about photokeratitis, how you can relieve the pain, and why you'll want to prevent it in the future, read on.

What Causes Photokeratitis?

The ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun can be classified as UVA, UVB, and UVC rays according to their wavelength. UVB rays from the sun are the ones responsible for causing sunburn, and they're also responsible for causing photokeratitis. Solar radiation causes damage to the cornea of your eye in the same way that it causes damage to your skin.

How Can You Tell if You Have Photokeratitis?

Symptoms of photokeratitis typically begin a few hours after sun exposure ends, which is another similarity that it shares with sunburns — in some cases, your eyes may even appear red and irritated. However, the most common symptoms of photokeratitis are pain, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, and the feeling of having sand in your eyes. In severe cases, photokeratitis can even cause significant vision impairment.

You can help alleviate the symptoms of photokeratitis by using artificial tears and staying indoors in a darkened room. Wrapping cold compresses in a towel and holding them against your eyes for 20 minutes at a time is also helpful.

Is Photokeratitis Dangerous?

While painful and annoying, photokeratitis is, fortunately, only a temporary ailment. Symptoms most often subside entirely 48 hours after they begin. If your photokeratitis doesn't get better by then, schedule an appointment with an optometrist — your symptoms may have a cause other than photokeratitis, and you should have your eyes examined to find the true diagnosis.

However, much like sunburn is a signal that you're not wearing sunscreen, photokeratitis is a signal that you're not using proper eye protection when you're out in the sun. Protecting your eyes from sunlight is an important part of eye care since ultraviolet rays can potentially cause conditions that are much worse than photokeratitis. Exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to you developing cataracts or macular degeneration.

Cataracts cause your vision to become cloudy and can be treated successfully with surgery. Macular degeneration causes the center of your vision to become much worse,and can only be delayed instead of being cured entirely — wearing eye protection when you're out in the sun is worth it to reduce your risk of these serious eye conditions.

How Do You Prevent Photokeratitis?

Whenever you're outside, you should wear sunglasses or goggles that offer 100% UV protection. You'll sometimes see this level of protection referred to as UV400 protection, which means that it blocks against all ultraviolet rays shorter than 400 nanometers. That includes whole ultraviolet spectrum.

If you need corrective lenses, schedule an appointment with your optometrist and ask about prescription sunglasses. They provide full protection against the ultraviolet radiation that can harm your eyes.

Overall, photokeratitis is a painful condition that can sometimes be severe enough to result in temporary near-blindness. While the duration of photokeratitis is thankfully short, it's a sign that you're not practicing proper eye care when you're out in the sun. In the future, remember to always wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection — you'll spare yourself from another painful bout of photokeratitis, along with reducing your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. 

To learn more about eye care, contact a company in your area like Battery Park Vision Associates.


21 December 2019

Going To The Eye Doctor

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