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What is photokeratitis? — Photokeratitis is an eye condition caused by an invisible kind of light called "ultraviolet" ("UV") light. Photokeratitis causes eye pain, redness, and other symptoms. This condition is also called "arc eye" or "snow blindness."
People get photokeratitis from being around UV light without eye protection. UV light comes from the sun and some types of lamps and tools, such as sunlamps and welding torches.
What are the symptoms of photokeratitis? — The symptoms usually happen 6 to 12 hours after being around UV light without eye protection. Symptoms can include:
●Eye pain that makes it hard to work, drive, or sleep – Some people pace or rock back and forth because the pain is so strong.
●Red, watery eyes, sometimes with swollen eyelids
●Being very uncomfortable around bright lights
●Not being able to open the eyes
●Feeling like there is sand in the eyes
●Red, swollen face
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of the symptoms above.
Is there a test for photokeratitis? — No. There is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam.
How is photokeratitis treated? — Photokeratitis almost always goes away on its own. It does not usually cause lasting problems. But it takes 1 to 3 days to get better, and is very painful. Try to wear dark glasses, and stay inside in dark rooms, as much as possible until your symptoms get better.
Your doctor or nurse can also give treatments to help with symptoms. These include:
●Medicines to control pain – Some of these medicines can help you sleep. Sleep can help the eyes heal.
●Antibiotic ointment to put in the eyes – This can make the eyes feel better and keep them from getting infected.
If your doctor or nurse says that you have photokeratitis, go back for another visit in 1 or 2 days. Your doctor or nurse will check to make sure that your eyes are healing.
Can photokeratitis be prevented? — Yes. You can lower your chances of getting it by wearing sunglasses when you are outdoors. Make sure that the sunglasses fit well and block UVA and UVB rays. The label on the sunglasses will say what type of rays they block. If you wear prescription sunglasses, make sure that they block both types of UV rays.
If you work around UV light from welding, high-voltage electric lines, or certain types of lamps, wear safety goggles that block UV light. Sunglasses or contact lenses do not give enough protection from these types of light.
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