First Aid Management: Photokeratitis

6 March 2014
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6 March 2014, Comments: 0

Photokeratitis is an acute eye condition that occurs after too much exposure of ultraviolet rays to the eyes, thus it is also called ultraviolet keratitis or simply UV keratitis. Specifically, photokeratitis is the inflammation of the cornea of the eye, causing damage. It is likened to a sunburn of the highly sensitive skin-like tissues of the eyeballs. One severe form of photokeratitis is snow blindness that affects mainly skiers and climbers who experience extreme exposure to UV levels because of high altitude conditions. Another form of photokeratitis is Welder’s arc burns. The latent period of this condition is typically from six to twelve hours, consequently, symptoms may not appear immediately to the patient. Although this condition is very painful, it is generally considered a self-limited, reversible condition. Fortunately, there is no long-term damage to vision or the eye with proper treatment.

Causes of Photokeratitis

The sun is the greatest source of the harmful ultraviolet rays. However, artificial sources of UV radiation may also cause corneal damage. The following are the common sources of photokeratitis:

  • Other recreational solar exposure
  • Sunlamps
  • Laboratory or germicidal UV lamps
  • Damaged metal halide lamps
  • Aquarium disinfection lamps
  • Short circuit in a high voltage line

Symptoms of Photokeratitis

Typically, there is a delay of six to twelve hours between exposure to ultraviolet rays and the onset of symptoms, however, the latency stage varies inversely with exposure. In some cases of extreme exposure, symptoms of photokeratitis have manifested in as early as one hour. The common signs and symptoms of photokeratitis include:

  • Pain in both eyes
  • Irritation
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Photophobia (fear of light)
  • Inability to open the eyes
  • Foreign body sensation
Pain usually occurs in both eyes in cases of photokeratitis

Pain usually occurs in both eyes in cases of photokeratitis

First Aid Management for Photokeratitis

Complications do not typically develop from photokeratitis, but early detection and treatment is still essential. Administer first aid to the victim to help alleviate pain. The following is the general recommended protocol in cases of photokeratitis:

  • Apply cool, wet compresses to the eyes.
  • To relieve from pain and inflammation, use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drops such as artificial tears for the eyes. Follow instructions as indicated by the manufacturer.
  • For severe discomfort, oral pain medications are usually prescribed.
  • Seek isolation in a dark room or with very limited light.
  • Do not wear contact lenses and wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes.

Photokeratitis is an acute eye condition, where there is inflammation of the cornea that occurs due to too much exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. To learn how to manage eye conditions or conditions brought about by the sun or heat, enroll in First Aid Courses.

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