can your eyes get sunburned

Can Your Eyes Get Sunburned?

When it comes to sunburned eyes, you might have the following questions on your mind: What exactly are sunburned eyes?, How can people get sunburned eyes?, What causes sunburned eye?, What are the symptoms when eyes get sunburned? and how can sunburned eyes be treated?. 

In this article, we are going to guide you through the answers to the questions mentioned above and important things you need to consider regarding sunburned eyes.   

sunburned eyes

What are sunburned eyes and what causes eye sunburn? 

Sunburned eyes are a condition in which you feel burning sensations in your eyes which are caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s rays. It is commonly known as photokeratitis. Also in the long run, it can lead to eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and eyelid cancer. 

Sunburned eyes are also known as photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis. It is basically an inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of the eye. 

Symptoms of Sunburned Eyes 

If your eyes get excessive exposure to UV rays, temporary sunburn or permanent harm can take place in a range of regions including: 

The thin surface layer of the cornea, conjunctiva, lens and retina. 

There is a variety in symptom intensity for eye sunburn. The length of UV exposure is directly proportional to the intensity of symptoms. The symptoms of eye sunburn can cause discomfort and are as follows: 

• Blurry vision 

• Constricted, pinpoint pupils (miosis) 

• Eye pain 

• Gritty feeling, as if you have sand in your eyes 

• Headache 

• Redness 

• Seeing halos 

• Sensitivity to bright light 

• Swelling 

• Tearing 

• Temporary vision loss or color changes in your vision (these symptoms are rare) 

• Twitching sensation in the eyelid 

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms: 

• Blurred, fuzzy, dim, or distorted vision 

• Issues with night vision 

• Seeing halos 

• Sensitivity to glare or light 

• Shadowy areas in the middle field of vision 

Besides, you should be super careful with eyelids which are a very susceptible part of the body and can get skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma. This can spread to the eyes themselves. 

You should see a dermatologist if you spot any of the following symptoms on your eyelid. 

• Breaks in the skin that do not go away, or changes in skin texture 

• A discolored eyelid growth that appears red, black, or brown 

• Eyelash loss 

• Swelling or thickening of skin 


The medical condition of eye sunburn can be treated with antibiotic eye drops or pain relievers. Alternatively, it is advisable that you try the following home remedies to reduce the symptoms:  

• Do wear your sunglasses at all times so as to minimize the influence of bright light. 

• Have eye drops and use artificial tears as an eye lubricant 

• If you like swimming, always use airtight googles to protect your eyes. Try not to get salt water (chlorinated water) in your eyes.  

• Take off your contact lenses at once to allow your eyes to heal. 

• Take over-the-counter pain medication that relieves headache can also help reduce the symptoms of eye sunburn. 

• Put cool compresses over closed eyes and sit back or lie down and relax  

can you get sunburned in your eyes

When and where do you need to be cautious? 

Keep in mind that UV rays can become intense in the following different environments: 

Water and sand can reflect sunlight which emits ultraviolet rays. You will experience this if you are in the following places, namely, beach, boat, dock, lake pool and any area where the sun meets water.  

Even if you are in the city, sunlight can still affect your eyes through cloud cover and its reflections from cars, concrete streets and buildings.  

Apart from that, if you have a penchant for mountain sports such as skiing, snowboarding and mountain climbing, your eyes can still get sunburned unless you protect your eyes because snow and ice on the mountain can reflect sunlight which impacts your eyes.   

The higher altitudes you are on, the thinner the air becomes and the more sensitive to UV rays you become. 

Also be careful with reptile basking bulbs, arc welding machines and particularly tanning beds which are able to generate up to 100 times the amount of UV rays and can be harmful for your eyes. Make sure you protect your eyes while using it. 

Eye Protection Tips 

• Wear eyeglasses that absorb or block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays in order for your eyes to get properly protected. 

• Wear a brimmed hat can assist in protecting your eyes from sun exposure.  

• Wear sunglasses or airtight googles that give you this same degree of protection and wearing a helmet is a great choice as well. 

• Avoid using a tanning bed unless you wear protective eye equipment. At the same time, be mindful of keeping your eyes shut as much as possible.   

• If you are in a situation where you need to use welding tools or similar kinds of machinery, do put on a welding helmet that can protect your eyes and face. 


On the whole, your eyes are sensitive organs that can get sunburned if you expose yourself excessively to UV rays. The condition of sunburned eyes called photokeratitis normally disappears by itself after a few days.  

On the one hand, excessive exposure to UV rays can lead to unfavorable symptoms of sunburned eyes in the short run. On the other hand, in the long run, if your exposure to UV rays continue, severe medical conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and eyelid cancer can occur.  

Therefore, be mindful of always protecting your eyes from the sun, especially when you are on a high mountain or high ground in which thin air and strong UV rays are.