Your favorite sunglasses are more than a fashion statement – they also protect your eyes from sunburn.
Dana Galiano, 47, of New Jersey, was stricken with photokeratitis — the clinical name for corneal sunburn — in both eyes during a family beach trip to Ocean City in July. She believes the burns are responsible for reducing her close-range vision.
The woman did not wear sunglasses during this trip and when she returned home she felt a burning sensation in her eyes as if sand had been blown into them.
She is no longer in pain and her vision has not been drastically affected in the long run, although she finds herself needing her glasses more often than ever.
Doctors strongly recommend that people wear sunglasses outside and avoid looking directly at the sun, which releases harmful UVA and UVB rays that can lead to cataracts and eyelid cancer over time.
Ms. Dana Galiano, a New Jersey native who works in sales for a national mortgage company, told DailyMail.com that she used to not wear sunglasses very often
Ms. Galiano said the small brown spot on her eye appeared shortly after she experienced a burning sensation in her eye
After a long day at the beach in New Jersey, she felt discomfort in her eyes, but that went away after a few hours. She was told that the small brown spot on her eye is a remnant of the sunburn there
“I don’t always wear sunglasses in the sun, and I almost started to feel a burning sensation in my eye, not like, from allergies or anything, like a real burn in the eye,” Ms. Galiano told DailyMail.com.
‘And I thought nothing of it… I did realize there was a mark on my eye, didn’t I? But I didn’t know what it was.’
The Jersey native spent a long beach day reading an issue of Us Weekly last summer and felt pain when she returned home.
She said, “After I felt this way, I closed my eyes and put a towel over my face, and when I came home from the beach, I rinsed my face with water. And my eye wasn’t red or anything, but it still hurt.’
At first it felt like grains of sand had been blown into her eye, causing a severe burning sensation. It turned out that she had experienced a sunburn in her right eye.
One of the main symptoms of photokeratitis is grittiness in the eyes, which can be mistaken for debris there.
“I even said to my mom, can you look at my eyes, do I have sand in my eye, like I don’t know what it is because my eye wasn’t red or anything,” she continued.
“That’s what’s so crazy about this whole thing, there was nothing in my eye and I rinsed it out with water,” she said.
The pain finally went away a few hours and a dose of Motrin later.
Still, she noticed a spot on her right eye that hadn’t been there before. But as a self-proclaimed procrastinator when it comes to checkups, she ignored it.
When the same thing happened in her left eye the same weekend after a day of lounging on the beach, leaving her with another mark, Dana sought medical attention.
She said, ‘Look, I’m going to the doctor and they said, you’ve got a sunburn in your eye and it’s permanent. And they asked how often you wear sunglasses. And I’m like, I wear them sometimes, but not all the time.
“I haven’t worn sunglasses in my entire life when I’m out in the sun. I just don’t. So they’re like, you have a burn, a permanent burn on your eye. And you can’t go on not wearing sunglasses.
‘[The doctor] said it would only get worse. And it will actually affect your vision. So right now the spot on my eye can see it, but over time, she said, what would happen if I don’t wear sunglasses, that eventually it can get bigger and then you know, I won’t be able to see.”
Although she is no longer in pain, Dana has had to buy glasses to cope with farsightedness.
Photokeratitis usually isn’t harmful to long-term vision, and Dana acknowledged that her doctors couldn’t say for sure that her increased need to wear glasses was a direct result.
At first she thought the loss of her vision was a symptom of aging, but her doctor told her that the permanent burn could definitely affect her vision.
Dana said, “She didn’t say the burn on your eye is 100 percent the reason you need stronger glasses now. I used to only use them at night to drive, but now I have to wear glasses, look at my computer and drive every day.
‘That [damage is] part of it. Because every time you have damage or something similar to your eye, such as your cornea, it impairs your vision.’
Permanent vision damage from photokeratitis is rare but not unheard of, according to Dr. Jeff Dello Russo, an ophthalmologist who specializes in laser eye surgery in New York and New Jersey.
Dr. Dello Russo told DailyMail.com: “It’s usually something that happens, you can just see it over a very long period of time, not like one case in the sun, but it’s possible.
“You can have photokeratitis with no visible signs other than your eyes being red and irritated, which is usually the case. Seeing such a physical mark is less common.’
The condition is caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays on water, sand or snow and is particularly common in winter sports enthusiasts who spend a lot of time at high altitudes where the air is thinner and offers less protection against UV rays.
It is not known how common or unusual the condition is, as it can be mistaken for eye strain, dry eyes, or debris in the eyes.
Dr. Dello Russo said, “I don’t think there’s a real incident report on how common it is.”
Ms. Galiano has spent much of her life in the sun, including her professional life. As a director at the National Mortgage Insurance Corporation, she does quite a bit of business away from the golf course.
Other symptoms of photokeratitis include redness, pain and swelling, tearing, blurred vision, eyelid twitching, sensitivity to light, gritty feeling in the eye, and inflammation of the conjunctiva, or mucous membrane that protects the eye.
Photokeratitis usually lasts less than a few days and permanent damage is rare, but over time, repeated cases of photokeratitis can increase your risk of long-term eye damage. For example, 10 percent of cataract cases can be attributed to too much exposure to UV rays.
Dana is now a committed wearer of polarized sunglasses, she said, and urges her two daughters, ages 15 and 18, to wear them whenever they encounter UV rays.
She said her eyes are now “a main priority.” It’s my vision, because these are my only eyes.’