How to Treat Sunburned Eyes

A day in the sunshine can burn your eyes as well as your skin. If you return home after a day outside and your eyes are red, itchy, or tearing and if looking at shiny things bothers you, your eyes have probably been burned by the sun's ultraviolet rays. A light case of sunburn shouldn't cause any lasting damage to your eyes, but if you repeatedly burn them, medical issues like cataracts, cancer, and photokeratitis (photokeratitis can cause temporary blindness) can eventually develop in your eyes. Here is how you can treat sunburned eyes.


You will want to keep your eyes moist with lubricated eye drops (you should consult your local pharmacist or doctor to determine the right type of lubricating eye drops you should buy). The eye drops will help to relieve the redness and soreness caused by the sun. You can also use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops that help to minimize the pain and discomfort of inflamed eyes. You should take over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen if you have mild pain or discomfort (extreme pain and discomfort requires immediate medical attention).

Avoid Sunshine

You need to protect your eyes from the sun to avoid getting them burned further by the sun. The best way to do this is to wear a wide brimmed hat with wrap-around sunglasses. You should make sure the sunglasses you wear have a 99–100% protection rating against the UVA and the UVB ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. UV ratings can be found on stickers placed on the sunglasses.

You should avoid spending time in the sun when the UV rays are at their highest intensity during the day (this is typically between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

If you wear contacts, you should check to make sure they provide 99–100% protection against UV rays from the sun. If not, you should have your ophthalmologist give you a prescription for contact lenses that offer this level of UV protection. You should still wear UV protected sunglasses and a hat for extra protection when you go outside during the day

Your eyes can still sunburned on a cloudy day. Ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds and come into contact with your eyes. You need to protect your eyes the same as you would on a sunny day.

If your eyes become extremely painful or are not responding to your treatments, you should go see an ophthalmologist like Anderson Family Vision Care right away to see if you need advanced treatment and care.