IT’S WELL-KNOWN that the sun’s UV rays can be harmful to our skin, but what about our eyes?

Many people don’t realise that our eyeballs can burn when exposed to sunlight too.

One Costa Blanca optician advises what we can do to prevent this from happening.

Jorge Martínez de Lizarduy Araico, store director of Specsavers Ópticas in Benidorm, says: ‘Sunburned eyes, which can also be known as photokeratitis or snow blindness, happen when you are overexposed to harmful UV rays without the correct eye protection. 

This can occur when sunlight reflects off concrete, sand, water and snow. 

The overexposure to your eye damages the cornea’s outer layer, temporarily causing it to become inflamed and sore.

‘As well as potentially damaging your vision, sunburn also increases your risk of skin cancer. In particular, basal cell carcinoma, which commonly develops on areas most exposed to the sun, such as your face – including your eyelids and the skin around the eye.’

How do you know if your eyes are sunburned?

Jorge says: ‘When your eyes are sunburned it can feel quite painful. Your eyes will go red or appear bloodshot and may also water. While they will feel very itchy, it is important not to rub or scratch them as this could worsen the problem.

He adds: ‘Depending on the extent of the damage and sunburn, symptoms should ease within 24 to 48 hours. Moisturising eye-drops can also help with the healing process.’

‘Other symptoms also include blurred vision, sensitivity to light and the feeling of grit or sand in your eyes.’

How can you treat sunburned eyes?

Jorge’s advice is to swap your contacts for sunglasses, this will help to avoid further irritation, while sunglasses will help to protect eyes while they heal.

Stay inside: It is best to stay indoors while symptoms subside to avoid any further damage to your eyes.

Cool down: Placing a cold compress or a fresh, damp cloth over closed eyes will help cool the eyes down and ease symptoms.

Avoid itching: While it can be difficult, try to avoid rubbing or itching eyes as this will make them worse.

See your optician: If none of this helps and eyes continue to feel sore for more than 48 hours, make sure you see your optician to check your eye health.

Protecting eyes from the sun –

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‘The best way to protect your eyes from the sun is through wearing a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection,’ says Jorge. ‘Look for glasses carrying the CE mark, or the British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013), as this ensures they match up to the appropriate safety standards.

‘Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also help shade your eyes and protect your face. 

It is also really important that when you are spending time outdoors that you never look at the sun directly as this can damage your eyes.’

There are six Specsavers Ópticas stores on the Costa Blanca; in Javea, Calpe, Benidorm, Guardamar, La Zenia and Torrevieja. 

Visit www.specsavers.es to find your nearest store.

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