The Dangers of Photokeratitis

Temperatures are skyrocketing, and the sun is at its brightest. For many of us, that means spending time in the pool, enjoying the crashing waves of the ocean, relaxing in the sun, or pursuing some other outdoor activity.

The sun is dangerous, and we know sun protection is an absolute must. So, we lather on our SPF 50 and go about our days. That’s all we really need to do, right?

Wrong! Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that needs to be shielded from the sun. Eyes can get sunburned too. Known as “snow blindness,” “welder’s eye” or “flash burns,” photokeratitis damages your corneas, essentially causing them to become sunburned.

Bright Sun Sunglasses


Safety Glasses USA knows first-hand the damaging effects of photokeratitis. We’ve seen how the sun can damage the whites of the eyes of a 10-year-old child and how it can impact healthy and active thirty-somethings who forget to wear Polarized Sunglasses.

Causes of Photokeratitis

Typically, no one stares directly at the sun. So, photokeratitis usually occurs when UV rays bounce off a reflective surface and into our eyes. Water, such as in a pool or the ocean, reflects UV rays exceptionally well on sunny days. This reflection dramatically increasing the risk of the sun burning your corneas.

The bright white of snow does it too. Even sand and concrete reflect the sun into your eyes. Ever wonder why you’re not supposed to stare directly at a solar eclipse? Photokeratitis is the reason.

Symptoms of Photokeratitis

Spotting photokeratitis is easy. If your eyes are red or painful after time in the sun, you most likely are experiencing the effects of this condition.

Anderson Cooper Eye Injury

Most people experience mild symptoms with red eyes and moderate pain for a couple of days. Severe cases involve intense pain and lid spasms and can actually last as long as six days. Those with severe cases often have to wear an eye patch during this time. Some people even go blind temporarily, as discovered by Anderson Cooper several years ago.

Treatment of Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis is no minuscule matter. Yet, the effects are often not immediate. It takes up to six hours for symptoms to set in.

If you are experiencing symptoms, visit the eye doctor immediately. Most will recommend over-the-counter pain medications and eye drops to alleviate the discomfort.  Some will prescribe eye ointment and eye patches. Those suffering from a severe case of it will likely be essentially blind until they recover.

Photokeratitis Prevention

Since you can’t apply sunscreen to your eyes, wearing Polarized Sunglasses that repel harmful UV rays is essential. We suggest keeping a pair of Polarized Sunglasses in your car, so you always have a pair on hand whenever you’re spending a significant period of time outside on a sunny day.

By |2018-05-09T18:12:57+00:00May 14th, 2018|All Posts, Featured Post, Vision Health|3 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Eldridge is a US Marine Veteran and the founder of He's passionate about protective eyewear and promoting vision safety. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, fishing, CrossFit, mountain biking, camping with his family and watching Detroit Tigers baseball.


  1. Mary V July 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Thanks Ali for this information, I see young children around the lake who never have sunglasses. I actually heard one little boy at the lake telling his mom that his eyes hurt, and it was a very bright day with plenty of reflection from the water, but I did not know about Photokeratitis. I think I will be a good neighbor and order a few of the childrens’ glasses on this site and offer them to my neighbor children. The glasses are really inexpensive and it will make me feel good !

  2. Take Time to Focus on Eye Health & Safety | Blog July 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    […] radiation during the summer months is three times higher than in the winter, and Yes, Your Eyes Can Get Sunburned. UV radiation can increase the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular […]

  3. […] sources such as sunlight, welding, tanning booths and sunlamps. Protecting eyes against sunburn, Yes, Your Eyes Can Get a Sunburn, and taking precaution in welding and other situations is key to preventing flash […]

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