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Eye Injuries Caused by Ultraviolet (UV) Light

Topic Overview

Ultraviolet (UV) light can cause serious flash burns to the cornea from a source of radiation like the sun or lights.

  • High-intensity light from welding equipment. Wear a welding mask or goggles for protection.
  • Sunlight (ultraviolet rays). This is especially true at elevations above 5000 ft (1524 m) or when the sun glares off snow or water. Looking into the sun for long periods of time can cause permanent loss of vision by damaging the retina. Wear sunglasses that filter ultraviolet (UV) light for protection.
  • Tanning booths or sunlamps. Wear sunglasses or specially designed goggles for protection.

Symptoms may not start for 6 to 12 hours after exposure to the ultraviolet light. Symptoms include:

  • A feeling that something is in the eyes (foreign body sensation).
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia).
  • Tearing.

Ultraviolet injuries to the eyelids usually don't involve the eyeball because the blink reflex protects the eyeball. If the eyes are tightly closed, the edges of the eyelids may also be protected.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised November 2, 2011

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