Have you ever heard about corneal sunburn?

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Corneal sunburn is scientifically known as UV keratitis or UV radiation injury to the eyes. Corneal burns are not like not regular sunburns to our other body parts where skin rashes occur. Corneal sunburn damages specific layers, the white skin layer of the eye, the front of the eye tissue, the Cornea, and the Conjunctiva; it’s all specialised skin and has an outer layer called epithelium that is only five cells thick. Corneal sunburn is a serious issue.

Everyone will act surprised,” Why would I look at the sun directly to get my eyes burned?” but that’s not the case. Have a look at the causes mentioned below.

Causes of corneal sunburn:

List of specific causes that result in a corneal sunburn:

  • Light reflection on the water, like sunlight on the ocean, lakes, pools, etc.
  • Looking directly at vehicle halogen lamps positioned in high beam.
  • Looking directly at the sun without any proper protection.
  • Heavy floodlights in studios.
  • When lightning strikes near you, and you look at it directly. (Rare Case)

Etc.

High-density Headlamps, Corneal Sunburn | Global Eye Hospital Hyderabad

How long does the sunburn last?

It’s hard to tell the exact time frame; it usually lasts one to two days, but it is better to visit an ophthalmologist if the symptoms last longer.

Symptoms:

Various symptoms like,

  • Itchiness
  • Red-eye
  • Slight pain
  • Blur vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Gritty and sandy feeling in your eye
Red Eye, Corneal Sunburn | Global Eye Hospital Hyderabad

Home remedies:

Simple home remedies to follow to treat corneal sunburn at home. They are:

  1. If you feel the above symptoms after a long day in the sun, go inside your home away from the sunlight and let your body heal your eyes.
  2. If you have eye lubrication drops at home, apply one or two drops. Better to choose preservative-free drops.
  3. Take a clean towel, dip it in clean water, rinse it out and then place that wet towel on your eyes closed, creating a cooling effect on your eyes.

If the above symptoms are still not gone, visit the ophthalmologist and receive proper treatment.

How to avoid corneal sunburn:

When you go out on a sunny day, it is better to wear sunglasses and a broad hat to provide shade. Choose sunglasses with a 98% to 100% UV protection rating. It is much better to choose polarised sunglasses as they cut out reflections and the light-halo effect.

UV Rated Sunglasses, Corneal Sunburn | Global Eye Hospital Hyderabad

Questions to Ask the Doctor:

  • What is the reason for my symptoms?
  • Will there be any scarring or permanent visual loss from a corneal sunburn?
  • What are the steps to take to prevent this from ever happening again?
  • What can I expect to feel once the numbing eye drops have worn off?
  • When can I resume my daily routine?

Medical tests:

  • The doctor will refer to your past medical history related to your eyes and body and any past UV light exposure scenario. 
  • The doctor will check your Pupils, eyelids, retina, cornea surface, and vision.
  • Tropicamide or other composition eye drops will be used, which allows your optometrist to view the inside of your eye for any possible damage done to the eye more efficiently by making the pupils wider than usual.
  •  Proparacaine or other composition eye drops are numbing eye drops that pause the connection between pain receptors and the brain in the eye region so that the doctor can examine the eye without causing pain to the patient. Also, fluorescein, a harmless dye, may be used to ease the examination; this creates a yellowish effect so that the doctor can know the state of the eyes.

Medications:

Treatment-related to corneal sunburn may include procedures like antibiotic medication, pain medication, lubricative eye drops, or other eye drops required to examine the eye. Or treatment will consist of none of the above according to your situation.

  • To prevent any further infection of the Cornea, antibiotic ointment or eye drops will be prescribed. If the situation is critical, steroids are used to reduce inflammation.
  • A lightly potent drug will be used to create paralysis effect of ciliary muscles of the eyes to help in the healthy recovery of the eyes. This procedure provides rest to the muscles near the eye.
  • Oral medication like tablets or drops may be used for anti-inflammatory and pain suppression. Medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium and other pain medicines, such as Tylenol, may also be used; in rare case scenarios, more potent agents are used.

Follow Up:

You have to follow up with your doctor within 24-48 hours to know whether the Cornea is healing or not.

It’s better to follow the tips provided to avoid Corneal sunburn in the first place. Prevention is always better than treatment.

The Global Eye Hospital

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