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Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned?

Now that the summer season is here, it brings a lot of fun outdoor activities with it. However, the summers also incur the dangers of sunburn with scorching sun rays and soaring temperatures. Even though most of us remember to put on sunscreen to protect our skin against harmful UV rays, a lot of people forget to protect their eyes. Sunburned eyes may sound uncommon, but eyes can get sunburned and it is crucial to protect them. Let us take a look at how you can protect your eyes from sunburn during this summer season:

What is a sunburned eye?

A lot of people may be confused by the question; can your eyes get sunburned? The fact is, your eyes can get sunburned. If you’ve ever suffered from sunburn on your neck and face, then you must be aware of how uncomfortable it could potentially be. A sunburned eye is similar to experiencing that same feeling in your eye.

A sunburned eye is a condition caused by too much exposure to UV radiation. This condition is formally referred to as photokeratitis, which is essentially sunburn of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, redness, swelling, watery eye, and pain in the eye, similar to eye injuries like having a foreign body in the eye or corneal abrasion.

What are the long-term effects of sunburned eyes?

Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to UV radiation could lead to more severe eye problems, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer of the eyelids. In some extreme cases, sunburned eyes can even lead to temporary vision loss, and severe pain, among other symptoms. In such cases, you must consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for medical attention. Your eye doctor will diagnose the damage and suggest an appropriate treatment. 

How can you prevent sunburned eyes?

Here are some ways you can prevent getting sunburned eyes:

  • Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection: Keeping your eyes covered with sunglasses is one of the most effective ways to protect them from sunburn. However, you need to ensure that your sunglasses can prevent harmful rays of the sun from reaching your eye. Look for sunglasses that are designed to block UV rays. You can also opt for polarized lenses that are designed to provide clear vision by reducing glare. If you wear powered glasses, it is a good idea to consult an optometrist about getting prescription sunglasses.
  • Wear a hat: Wearing a wide-brimmed hat that shades your eyes and your face from the sun is a good idea during the summer. Make sure that the brim of your hat is a minimum of 3 inches wide and can effectively shade your eyes against the rays of the sun. If you’re going to be outdoors for a long time, you should consider wearing a bucket hat that has a brim all the way around. This is particularly important if you are planning to step outside during the middle of the day when the rays of the sun are the strongest.
  • Avoid stepping out between 10 am and 4 pm: It’s also crucial to be aware of the time of day when the sun’s rays are the strongest. UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. If possible, avoid being outside during these hours. It is often a good idea to plan outdoor activities during late afternoons or early mornings when the rays are still mild.
  • Use eye drops: Using eye drops is a good idea after you have spent a long day in the sun. Generally, after spending some hours outside, your eyes may start to feel a little irritated and dry. Eye drops can help lubricate and ease discomfort associated with sunburned eyes. If you wear contact lenses, make sure that you choose eye drops that are completely safe for use.

How to treat sunburned eyes?

Even though sunburned eyes can cause some discomfort and pain, it is possible to treat them quickly to maximize healing. Here are some ways that you can reduce discomfort during sunburned eyes while promoting healing:

Use Cold Compresses: One of the most effective ways to ease eye pain and swelling induced by sunburn is to use cold compresses against your eye. You can use a gel eye mask, a bag of ice, or a cold washcloth to apply some gentle cold pressure to your eyes. Make sure that you wrap the compress in a soft towel or cloth and apply very gentle pressure to avoid injuring your eye. You should use a cold compress against your eye several times a day for 15 minutes at a time.

Stay Hydrated: Sunburned eyes could potentially cause a lot of dryness and some discomfort. However, you can reduce these by making sure that you stay hydrated. It is extremely important to drink lots of water, juices, and sunburn drink to flush your body with macro and micronutrients that promote faster healing.

Avoid Eye Makeup: When you are still healing from sunburned eyes, it is crucial not to put irritants in your eye, such as eye makeup. Avoid using eye shadow, eyeliner, and mascara as they can not only irritate your eye further but also clog your tear ducts. Wearing eye makeup during sunburned eyes can even prevent your eye from generating any natural tears and cause dry eyes. These can even slow the entire healing process and prolong your discomfort.


The summer season is the perfect time of the year to go outside and enjoy the warm weather. However, a lot of people tend to forget to take proper care of their eyes when they are soaking up the sun’s rays. This could make your eyes prone to suffering from sunburned eyes, a condition associated with prolonged exposure to UV rays. Sunburned eyes could be an uncomfortable and painful experience.

However, with the proper care, you could accelerate healing and relieve discomfort. You can use cold compresses against your eye, stay hydrated with lots of water, juices, and Sunburn Drinks, use artificial tears to hydrate your eye, avoid eye makeup entirely, and consult an ophthalmologist for medical attention if necessary. With some care, you can recover quickly and go back to enjoying the summers.