Corneal sunburn or a ‘corneal flash burn’ is essentially sunburn on your eye. The clear layer covering the front of your eyes forms the cornea and this area can be damaged from over exposure to sunlight and UV radiation.When this happens, symptoms include pain as well as temporary loss of vision.

To prevent cornea sunburn, it’s important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, all year round. No matter what the time of year it is, sunglasses are essential whenever you are outside.

What Causes Corneal Sunburn?

Corneal sunburn can happen in both the summer and winter. In mountain areas such as the Alps or other places of high elevation, chances of damage to the cornea are greatly increased.

Reflection of the sun off the bright, white snow can cause flash burns and when sight is temporarily impaired, it’s known as ‘snow blindness’. This is why seasoned skiers and snow sport enthusiasts always wear high-tech goggles to protect their eyes. Sunlight reflections on lakes, rivers and other bodies of water can also create the same problems if you are not wearing sunglasses.

Other things that can cause corneal flash burn are sun tanning beds, photographer’s flood lamps, welding torches, strong halogen lamps, or lightening (if it strikes close to you).

Symptoms of Corneal Sunburn

  • Pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Sensitivity to the light
  • Temporary loss of vision or blurred vision
  • Feeling of having something in your eye
  • Eyes appear bloodshot
  • Watery eyes

What to Do if You Get Corneal Burn

If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, it’s important to seek medical advice straight away. Blurred vision, under any circumstances, should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist immediately. If you are not able to see an eye specialist or your GP in time and your symptoms worsen overnight, it is advised to visit your local A&E or emergency centre without delay.

If you are skiing, remember that all ski resorts have on-site ski mountain doctors who are trained to look at common injuries which occur in snowy conditions – so they should always be your first port of call.

How to Prevent Sunburn of the Eye

To prevent damage to your cornea, it is imperative to wear protective sunglasses throughout the year. For high altitude snow based holidays, shopping for high quality shades is important. Don’t cut corners with a budget option and always ensure that your lenses are UV400 (able to block out UVA and UVB rays).

Choose mirror or polarised lenses to reduce glare and choose the right lens tint to block out the sun in intense conditions. For driving, always opt for photochromic sunglasses which can adapt darkness and lightness as your landscape changes on the road.

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By james