What is Photokeratitis?

Photokeratitis, also known as ultraviolet keratitis or UV keratitis, is an acute but very painful syndrome that occurs when your eye is subjected to invisible rays of energy called ultraviolet (UV) rays, either from the sun or from a man-made cause.

This condition disturbs the slim surface layer of the cornea and the conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue covering the white section of the eye and the interior of the eyelids.

Causes of Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis is triggered by harm to the eye from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sunlight is the leading source of natural UV rays. Man-made sources of ultraviolet light include tanning lamps and tanning beds.

The exposure may not be initially apparent, as there can be 6-12 hours between exposure and the onset of symptoms. Any recreational or work activity with exposure to the sun has the potential for photokeratitis in unprotected eyes.

Symptoms of Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis is not typically detected until well after the harm has happened. Symptoms include:

  • pain
  • redness
  • blurriness
  • tearing
  • inflammation
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • headache
  • spotting halos
  • tiny pupils
  • eyelid trembling
  • not often, short-term vision loss

In uncommon cases, you may also encounter short-term colour changes in your eyesight.

The more you are subjected to UV rays, the more serious your symptoms will be.

How to treat Photokeratitis

Photokeratitis can be prevented by using sunglasses or eye protection that transmits 5–10 % of visible light and absorbs almost all UV rays. Sunglasses should have large lenses and side shields to avoid incidental light exposure. Sunglasses should always be worn when outdoors, even when the sky is overcast, as UV rays may be very high, even on overcast days.

At George & Matilda, we can treat the pain of photokeratitis and give advice on how to prevent photokeratitis from reoccurring.

Click here to learn more about other eye conditions

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