We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen year round, right? It protects our delicate skin from the harsh rays of the sun, protecting us from sunburn and worse: melanomas (cancer). But have you ever wondered if your eyes can get sunburned? The question might seem silly but the answer is definitely not because, as it turns out, they can! Yikes…that hurts just thinking about, right?! We’re here to give you the less painful but all-important details and tell your how to prevent your eyes from getting sunburned.
How Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned?
You’re probably wondering how it is even possible for your eyes to get sunburned. It turns out that the cornea, which is the clear, front-facing surface of the eyeball, is made of tissue that’s really similar to the kind that makes up our skin. That means that, just like our skin, it can be damaged by the UV rays. And there you have it: eye sunburn.
Now, summertime is prime time for sunburn, sure. Lounging poolside or having a blast at the beach can all be a great time, but if you forget your sunscreen, you may be in for a very sore night where you’ll be able to do nothing but whine and slather yourself in soothing aloe gel. Of course, if your eyes get sunburned you can’t exactly coat them in aloe. Also, summer rays aren’t the only ones you have to watch out for—this issue can happen any time of the year. You might be bundled up and hitting the slopes in icy Maine, and, guess what? If you don’t wear protective lenses, your poor eyes can totally get sunburnt.
Symptoms of Eye Sunburn
The symptoms of sunburned eyes are fairly easy to recognize. Here’s a quick list:
- Bloodshot, red eyes
- Eyes will feel dry and gritty
- Eyes may feel like they are burning or very sore
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
How To Treat Eye Sunburn
Luckily, your eyes will begin to heal on their own after becoming sunburned. Generally, you should be feeling better within 24-72 hours. To help the process along you can do a few different things:
- Stay in darker room settings
- Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops
- For especially bad cases, see your doctor to get a prescription for anti-inflammatory eye drops
- If symptoms do not clear up in a week or get worse, see your eye doctor immediately
How To Prevent Eye Sunburn
It’s not too hard to prevent sunburned eyes. Just make sure to protect your eyes when outdoors, especially on bright days—whether it’s hot or cold outside! Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind:
- Always wear sunglasses when in the sun and make sure they have UV protection!
- Opt for contact lenses that have built-in UV protection, like One Day Acuvue Define lenses
- Wear a baseball cap or other brimmed hat to add extra protection for your eyes when outdoors
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water—this is beneficial not only for your eyes, but for your entire body!
Health Issues Associated With Eye Sunburn
Besides being uncomfortable and painful, repeated eye sunburn can lead to some serious health issues. You can’t really notice when it’ s occurring, so it’s important to be mindful and take preventative measures by following tips from the above list. If you continue to allow your eyes to get sunburned you run the risk of doing permanent damage to your vision. In extreme cases, this could even mean blindness. You also become more susceptible to eye issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss. Also, as we mentioned earlier, the tissues that make up the cornea are really similar to the makeup of our skin. Just like our skin can develop cancer, so can the eyeball. Also, you can develop cancers around the outside of the eye, such as on your eyelids.
So remember, grab some shades next time you head outdoors on a bright day, or put in an order for some UV-protection contact lenses to keep your eyes fresh, healthy, and sunburnt-free!