Date Published: 5 October 2006

Eyecare: Excessive exposure to UV light can lead to photokeratitis

Excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays can lead to a sunburn-like condition called photokeratitis. This can be extremely painful and make your eyes red, swollen and watery.

The symptoms of photokeratitis normally clear up quickly and cause no permanent damage to the eye, however, unprotected exposure to the sun over a long period of time greatly increases your risk of developing cataracts and other age-related conditions which can seriously impair vision later in life.

Children are thought to be at the greatest risk from UV exposure because the cornea, lens and fluids in their eyes are much clearer, allowing more UV light to reach the retina.
In fact, by the age of 18, more than half-a-lifetime’s worth of Ultra Violet light will have been absorbed by a child’s eyes.

Children, and adults, should wear good quality sunglasses and a peaked hat when spending time outdoors during the summer months and, it’s especially important for parents to safeguard their children’s eyes when playing on the beach or by the pool, where there is a lot of reflected light
according to Rosie Gavzey, director of the Eyecare Trust.

NEVER let your child wear toy sunglasses. These offer little UV protection and can actually cause more damage because the tinted lenses dilate the pupil allowing even more UV light to enter the eye.

Check that the lenses filter at LEAST 99% of the UVA & UVB light and look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:1997 marks when choosing sunglasses for your child as this ensures that they offer a safe level of UV protection.


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