Ultraviolet Keratitis

Ultraviolet Keratitis

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Ultraviolet Keratitis

The cornea is the clear cover on the front part of your eye. It helps focus light and protects your eye from dust and germs. Your cornea also filters ultraviolet (UV) rays before they enter your eye. Too much UV light can harm the cornea, causing pain and changes in vision. This is ultraviolet keratitis.

Hispanic woman having an eye exam

Risk Factors

UV damage to the cornea can be caused by:

  • Reflected sunlight from snow or water

  • Sunlamps

  • Halogen lamps or welding torches

  • Lightning

  • Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight

When to Go to the Emergency Department (ED)

Symptoms of ultraviolet keratitis appear 6 to 12 hours after damage occurs. Call your doctor or emergency services right away if you have any of these symptoms after light exposure.

  • Eye redness and tearing

  • Eye pain, which may worsen when you move your eyes

  • Flashing spots or flashes of light

  • Changes in your vision

  • Sensation of an object in your eye

  • Sensitivity to light

What to Expect in the ED

A doctor will ask about your exposure to UV light. He or she will examine your eyes carefully using a slit lamp (a magnifying instrument with a bright light). A special fluid (fluorescein dye) may be placed on the cornea to help show damage more clearly. Depending on your symptoms, you may have one or more of the following treatments:

  • Medications to help relieve pain

  • An antibiotic ointment to prevent infection in your eye

  • An eye patch to aid healing and ease discomfort


Call your doctor if pain or vision problems last more than 48 hours.

Never look directly at a solar eclipse. Doing so can cause serious damage to your eyes.