Photokeratitis is a painful eye condition that occurs when your eyes are exposed to UV rays. This condition affects the thin surface layer of the cornea and the conjunctiva.

Photokeratitis is like having a sunburnt eye. Like a sunburnt on your skin, photokeratitis is not usually noticed until well after the damage has occurred. Symptoms include:

  • Pain

  • Redness

  • Blurriness

  • Tearing

  • Gritty feeling

  • Swelling

  • Sensitivity to bright light

  • Headache

  • Seeing halos

  • Small pupils

  • Eyelid twitching

  • Rarely, temporary vision loss


Photokeratitis is caused by damage to the eye from the UV rays. Sunlight is the main source of natural UV rays.

Photokeratitis can be caused by the sun reflection from sand, water, ice and snow. It can also happen if you stare at the sun.

Snow blindness is a common form of photokeratitis that is caused by UV rays reflected off ice and snow. Therefore skiing, snowboarding and mountain climbing are all activities commonly associated with this condition.


Prevention is better than cure and there are strong reasons to believe that the use of adequate protection of the eyes against UV radiation may reduce the rate of this condition considerably.

It is essential that children before kindergarten and primary school age should be kept out of the midday sun and if this is not possible they should wear a broad-brimmed bonnet, be wheeled in a stroller with an awning and wear appropriate sunglasses at the earliest age possible. By the time the child is of primary school age, sunglasses should be always worn whenever outdoors.

When purchasing a pair of sunglasses, it is important they are labelled as compliant with Australian Standard (AS 1067.1 1990 Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles). This standard gives the safety and performance requirements for lenses and frames. Also look for an EPF UV rating of either 9 or 10, where the lenses transmit almost no ultraviolet radiation. This eye protection factor is set by the Australian Radiation Laboratory and offers protection above that required by the Australian Standard.

When protecting the eyes from ultraviolet radiation, wrap-around and close fitting sunglasses are the most effective type.

Veretti Kids sunglasses comply with all Australian Standards and are the best to protect your child’s eyes against sunlight.

Diagnosis & Treatment

A doctor can diagnose photokeratitis by asking about your recent activities, examining your eyes and using an eyedrop with fluorescein dye to look for UV damage.

Photokeratitis and snow blindness usually go away on their own so treatment is focused on making you feel better as your eyes heal.

If you wear contact lenses, please, remove them immediately. Come out of the sun and into a dark room.

For relief, you may try:

  • Placing a cold washcloth over your closed eyes

  • Using artificial tears

  • Taking certain pain relievers as recommended by your ophthalmologist

  • Using eyedrop antibiotics if your ophthalmologist recommends this

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes as they heal. Symptoms usually go away gradually in a day or two.


American Academy of Ophtalmology

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