Ultraviolet Keratitis: Need Immediate Attention

Thu July 05 2020

Ultraviolet Keratitis or Photokeratitis: Why does it need your immediate attention?

Ultraviolet keratitis (photokeratitis), is a painful eye condition that happens because of too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Overexposure to UV rays causes temporary damage to the cornea and the conjunctiva. The cornea is a clear, outer layer at the front of your eye. It allows light to enter the eyes and consists of five layers.

UV light for sterilisation

UV light sterilisation is a proven environment-friendly method to kill bacteria, fungi, mold, and viruses. UV sterilisation is widely known with different names such as UV disinfection, and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI).

UV light sterilisation does not involve the use of chemicals and does not produce disinfection by-products. It works by breaking the chemical bonds and altering the DNA structure of the microorganism in a way that it halts to multiply.

Sunlight contains three types of UV rays. UVA, UVB, and UVC. Artificially produced UVC light is used as a modern method to kill microorganisms in hospitals, offices, aeroplanes, etc.

UV lamps for sterilisation in the times of COVID

With people using sanitisers every now and then in COVID, which cannot be used on all objects, they look up to different measures to disinfect things where sanitisers cannot be used. From light bulbs that emit UV light to using lamps for disinfecting, UV light is being used at different places, and hence it becomes paramount to use it with proper precautions.

Things to keep in mind while using UV sterilisation

  • UVC light can damage human skin, and eye cells as direct exposure to it is dangerous for humans. Therefore UVC lamps with protective shields are used for UV sterilisation. Some wavelengths of UVC are often associated with cataracts and skin cancer.
  • Make sure to avoid direct exposure to UVC. The limitation with it is that it works only on a light path. Make sure that the thing(s) you wish to sterilise is in direct line with the UV light.
  • Keep in mind the following instructions told and stated on the user manual provided by the manufacturer. Exposure time, safety precautions, and distance to be maintained from the light source needs to be followed as suggested.
  • Though maintaining distance with UVC light is an important factor, what if you accidentally look at it directly? Do not worry. Do not stare at it for long. Accidental glare is still okay. UVC cannot penetrate through the eye lens easily.

Ultraviolet keratitis symptoms

Symptoms for ultraviolet keratitis can be many, like:

  • Tears
  • Swelling
  • Pain and redness in the eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Twitching of the eyelids
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes

Risk factors associated with photokeratitis

Some of the potential sources (causes) of ultraviolet sources in ultraviolet keratitis are:

  • Sun lamps
  • Arc welding
  • Tanning beds
  • Laboratory UV lights
  • Snow reflection
  • Recreational solar exposure

Apart from people who spend a lot of time outdoors, like hikers, mountain climbers, and swimmers are more prone to experience ultraviolet keratitis.

Ultraviolet keratitis diagnosis

You need to go through a comprehensive eye checkup as part of ultraviolet keratitis treatment. Your eye specialist will also ask about your recent activities, apart from conducting various tests. The ophthalmologist will check how much damage UV rays have caused to your eyes by administering eye drops. A special dye called fluorescein, present in the eye drops, can show superficial irregularities on the cornea.

Ultraviolet keratitis treatment

  • If you experience the symptoms mentioned above, then don't stay outdoors. Go indoors and try to stay in a darkened room.
  • Do not rub your eyes as it will add up to the existing irritation and pain.
  • Immediately get rid of contact lenses if you wear them. Do not sleep with contact lenses.
  • A cold washcloth can help. Place it over the eyes. It can relieve discomfort.
  • With your doctor's prescription, take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
  • Usually, the condition goes away on its own in a span of a few days, but it doesn't then visit an eye specialist. Take eye drops and other medications as prescribed.
  • Rush to the doctor in case you experience sudden vision loss or excruciating eye pain that lasts for more than a day.

Prevention of ultraviolet keratitis

There are several ways through which ultraviolet keratitis can be prevented. A few precautions can save you from this condition, like:

  • Wear sunglasses:

  • Depending upon your environment where you have to move out, do not forget to wear sunglasses. Such protective eyewear can block 99-100% of harmful UV rays. You can also choose to wear wrap-around sunglasses or glasses with side panels that block UV rays completely.

  • Wear a hat or cap:

  • A wide-brimmed hat or cap can save your eyes from direct UV rays when outdoors.

  • Wear eye protective equipment:

  • If you are in such a job that requires you to remain exposed to ultraviolet rays, then wear eye protective equipment.

Ultraviolet keratitis treatment

  • Treatment of ultraviolet keratitis is similar to that of corneal abrasion. The focus remains on healing corneal epithelium within 24-72 hours.
  • The patient is given supportive measurements like artificial tears, ointments, and oral analgesics to treat the cornea.
  • Follow up is a must-have with patients having ultraviolet keratitis. Your eye specialist can review the resolution of all the signs and symptoms. If you feel pain in the eyes, it should be checked by the doctor promptly.

Centre for Sight is always available for your eye care needs. We provide treatment for a lot of eye-related disorders, like cataracts, glaucoma, squints, retinoblastoma, refractive errors, amongst many more. We have an able team who work with the latest equipment and state-of-the-art infrastructure to help patients with the best possible treatment. We are headquartered in Delhi but have our presence across the country to reach our patients swiftly.

Article: Ultraviolet Keratitis or Photokeratitis: Why does it need your immediate attention?
Author: CFS Editorial Team   |   July 05 2020 | UPDATED 03:19 IST

*The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Centre for Sight.
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Ultraviolet keratitis is also called Photokeratitis and is a critical eye problem. Here’s the complete guide about Ultraviolet keratitis, its symptoms, & treatment.
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