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Can your eyes get sunburned?

13 December, 2019

You wouldn’t think so, but they sure can! During the hot summer months, we're constantly reminded to ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ to protect our skin from the sun's damaging UV rays, but what many of us don't realise is that our eyes are vulnerable to becoming sunburned too. 

Long hours in the sun expose unprotected eyes to dangerous UVA and UVB rays. If you've spent several hours in the sun and your eyes start watering, become itchy, sensitive to light, or dry and gritty, it's likely you have sunburned eyes. Sunburned eyes aren’t just irritating. Resident optometrist from Optometry Australia, Luke Arundel, says that without protection, eyes are at risk of photokeratitis, a painful eye condition that occurs when eyes are exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation.

"Photokeratitis can occur in one or both eyes simultaneously, and like sunburn which occurs on your skin, it is not usually noticed until well after the damage has occurred," he says.

How can I prevent sunburned eyes?

It's easy to prevent your eyes from becoming sunburned. A wide-brimmed hat will help shade your eyes, but don't stop there.

Every member of your family should wear sunglasses outdoors. Ask your optometrist to recommend sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection and/or blue-light filtering. Think about frame size too—larger frames help prevent harmful rays from sneaking in at the sides or top of your glasses.

Take these few simple precautions to protect your eyes from burning, and not only will you have fun in the sun, but you’ll enjoy good vision for many summers to come!

If you suspect your eyes are seriously sunburned, don't take any chances. Visit your VSP network optometrist right away.

Find a VSP optometrist

With a dream of providing high-quality, cost-effective eye care benefits, a group of optometrists founded VSP more than 60 years ago. Thanks to the experts at VSP® Vision Care for this article.

Eligible CBHS members* with Extras can access benefits and discounts at VSP network optometrists, including ‘no-gap’ frames and lens packages depending on your cover. Check out more on our VSP partnership here.

*As with all member claims, benefits and discounts, the availability of the discount or additional benefit is subject to normal membership conditions and limits – you must hold an eligible Extras policy with enough limit available for the item(s) being claimed within the appropriate Extras category.

Interested in eye health? Check out these articles

What are eye floaters?

How does diabetes affect your eyes?

The four common questions you’re asking optometrists

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.


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