Yes, Your Eyeballs Can Get Sunburned &, Wow, It Sounds Awful

Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage.
If you follow Busy Phillipps on Instagram, you know that she loves to overshare about her health — she even has a podcast dedicated to talking about all her health concerns. And if you've been keeping up with Busy, you also probably saw that this week was particularly tough, because she got photokeratitis from bright lights and sun exposure
Yesterday, Busy posted a photo of herself in the hospital covering her eyes, receiving some kind of eye exam. "Spent last night at Cedars after I couldn't sleep because it felt like there were shards of glass in both my eyes," she wrote. "I have Photo Keratitis from bright lights/sun exposure! WHO EVEN KNEW THAT WAS A THING?" Turns out, it's totally a thing.
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Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on your eyeballs. Also called "ultraviolet keratitis," it's caused by your eyes being exposed to UV rays. You can get it just from looking at sunlight reflected on snow, water, ice, or sand, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, in a recent interview about Black Panther, Angela Bassett said that some actors' eyes were sunburned while filming the waterfall scene, because the reflection was so intense.
There's also a form of photokeratitis dubbed "snow blindness," because it's common in areas where the air is thinner and there's a lot of snow and ice, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Or you can get photokeratitis from artificial light, like from a tanning bed or welder's torch. As for Busy, we'll have to wait and hear her whole story on her podcast, but we can assume it was one of these causes.
Most of the time, doctors can tell you have photokeratitis just by asking you about your recent activities, and looking at your eyes after they apply special drops. When your unprotected eyeballs get exposed to UV rays, it damages your cornea and conjunctiva, which leads to a whole bunch of uncomfortable symptoms. Most people report pain, redness, blurry vision, swelling, light sensitivity, twitching eyelids, and (as Busy described in excruciating detail) a gritty sensation in the eyes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The symptoms usually go away between six hours and a day, but they can also last for up to two days.
Luckily, photokeratitis usually goes away on its own, and it won't cause permanent damage (like make you go blind), according to the AAO. If you get it, your ophthalmologist will give you some medicated drops to relieve the pain, and probably tell you to stop wearing contact lenses if you do. It's also wise to stay out of the sun while your eyes heal.
The good news is that photokeratitis is very easy to prevent from happening in the first place. Wearing sunglasses or snow goggles is the best line of defence, and you get bonus points if they block or absorb 99% of UV rays, the AAO says. And try to avoid looking directly into the sun without eye protection — you know, like "very stable genius" Trump did during the solar eclipse.
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