Sunburned eyes are caused due to overexposure to UV rays, emitted from the sun and the condition is medically termed as photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis. The disorder is categorised by inflammation of the cornea, the region covering the front of the eye. Getting a sunburn on the eyelids is similar to a usual sunburn elsewhere on the body. 

Hence, it is vital to safeguard your eyes from UV rays not only to avoid getting them sunburned but, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to other eye disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and eyelid cancer. Also Read: Are You Above 50? Your Distorted, Curved Vision Could Be AMD

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As the eyes get exposed to UV rays it may lead to temporary sunburn or may lead to several damages in areas such as the surface of the cornea, retina, lens and conjunctiva. Also Read: Conjunctivitis: How to recognize the symptoms

In a person suffering from sunburned eyes, the intensity of symptoms are high and with longer exposure to UV rays, symptoms would be more severe and uncomfortable. They include:

  • Eyes feel gritty as if there is sand in the eyes
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Twitching sensation in the eyelid
  • Swelling
  • Tearing
  • Redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Miosis (excessive constrictions of the pupils)
  • Temporary vision loss /colour changes (these symptoms are usually rare)

sunburned eyes
When To Seek Medical Help?

The symptoms usually settle in a day or two, if symptoms persist for more than two days, especially if it involves regions around the eyes, then seek immediate medical care if you observe:

  • Blistering
  • High fever
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Chills 
  • Headache
  • Problem with night vision
  • Sensitivity to light

Eyelids are the most vulnerable part of the body, it can lead to cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma can easily spread to the whole eye. Seek advice from a dermatologist if you notice any of these symptoms in the eyelid:

  • Discoloured eyelid growth which looks red, black or brown
  • Change in skin texture or any unusual breaks in the skin
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Eyelash loss


Sunburned eyes or photokeratitis generally settles on its own within two days. Treatment mainly aims to reduce symptoms so that person can feel more comfortable. Doctors may recommend pain relievers or antibiotic eye drops to ease the problem.

Try some of these home remedies to get respite from the symptoms

  • Remove contact lenses immediately to allow the eyes to heal naturally at least for 10 days
  • Refrain from rubbing the eye even though it is itchy
  • Place a cool compress over the eyes and take rest.
  • Use over-the counter-medication to alleviate a headache.
  • Ensure that you always wear sunglasses to lower the impact of bright light.
  • Use artificial tears to lubricate eyes and keep it cool.
  • Refrain from putting eye makeup and false eyelashes which would further worsen the condition.
  • Keep the eyes clear and moist, never allow saltwater or chlorinated water in your eyes, while going for swimming safeguard eyes with airtight goggles.

How To Safeguard Eyes?

To assure that your eyes get the protection they need, always ensure that your eyeglasses block or absorb 100% of UV rays. Even using a larger brimmed hat can protect the eyes from sun exposure. Use sunglasses or goggles while skiing or going for other snow sports as it offers the same level of protection. If your work involves using a welding machine or similar kind of equipment, then wear a welding helmet specially designed to shield eyes and face. 

Sunglasses are the best fix to shield eyelids from harmful effects of UV rays. Go for larger frames that will protect more of the face for prolonged exposure. Also, look for glasses that offer UV 400 which covers UVA and UVB lights or 100% UV protection.

In addition, use a moisturiser that contains SPF, as the eyelids will better absorb moisturizer than a sunscreen.