Photokeratitis: Know what happens when eyeballs get sunburned. [Representational Image]Creative Commons

The sun's harmful rays affect not only your skin but your eyeballs as well. Yes, eyeballs can get sunburned. Actress Busy Philips recently said light exposure damaged her eyes.

According to a New York Post report, Philips said on her We're No Doctors podcast: "[The doctor] was literally like 'you sunburned your eyes'."

She suffered a painful eye injury known as photokeratitis. "It felt like shards of glass in my eyes," she said.

Photokeratitis is a painful condition affecting the thin layer over the cornea, and the cell layer that covers inside the eyelids and the whites of the eye, according to American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Causes of photokeratitis

Photokeratitis occurs due to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and sunlight is the main source of natural UV rays. It can be caused due to the reflection of the sun on snow, water, and sand. It can also happen if one stares at the sun or watches a solar eclipse without any special device.

In case of a solar eclipse, the cornea damage can be much more serious and long-lasting as compared to the other cases.

Solar Eclipse
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump look up at the partial solar eclipse from the balcony of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 21, 2017. The Great American Eclipse completed its journey across the United States Monday, with the path of totality stretching coast-to-coast for the first time in nearly a century.NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Photokeratitis may also happen due to man-made sources of ultraviolet light such as tanning lamps, tanning beds or even arc-welding.

Symptoms of photokeratitis

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the common symptoms of photokeratitis include pain, redness, blurriness, sensitivity to bright light, swelling, headache, eyelid twitching, seeing halos or small pupils.

In rare cases, temporary vision loss or temporary color changes in the vision might also take place. The symptoms differ based on the amount of time the eyes were exposed to the UV rays.

Photokeratitis prevention

Just like we use sunscreen to protect our skin from getting a sunburn, wearing eye protection is necessary to prevent photokeratitis. One can use sunglasses that block nearly 99 percent of UV rays.

How is photokeratitis treated?

Photokeratitis generally goes away on its own, but treatment is necessary to make the eyes heal faster. If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are noted, one should visit an ophthalmologist. Based on the condition of the person, they will give pain relievers or eye drops.