Ultraviolet keratitis

Ultraviolet keratitis

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Also called as actinic keratitis or photokeratitis.

Ultraviolet keratitis

Ultraviolet keratitis is a condition, which occurs when the cornea of the eye becomes burned. There are various forms of ultraviolet keratitis including snow blindness, Welder's Flash and arc eye. The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye, which can become burned by ultraviolet B rays. Ultraviolet keratitis is essentially, temporary and reversible sunburn from UVB rays.

Ultraviolet keratitis often occurs at high altitudes where there is highly reflective snow. It is termed radiation keratitis and snow blindness if it occurs due to reflection from the snow. Sunlight reflecting off of sand and water further increases exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and can cause ultraviolet keratitis. The condition may also occur with a solar eclipse or by lightning, although these circumstances are very rare.

Artificial sources of UV radiation also cause corneal damage. Injury from a welder's arc commonly is known as flash burn, welder's flash, or arc eye. Other sources of UV radiation injury include suntanning beds, carbon arcs, photographic flood lamps, lightning, electric sparks, and halogen desk lamps.


Symptoms of ultraviolet keratitis include:

    Blurry vision.

  • Gritty eyes.

  • Eye pain.

  • Swollen eyelids.

  • Eye redness.

  • Eye tearing.

  • Sensation that there is a foreign body in the eye.

  • Increased sensitivity to bright light.

  • Headache.


Examination of the lids and conjunctiva may reveal varying lid edema and conjunctival hyperemia.


Physician usually performs a standard slit lamp examination (SLE) with prior application of proparacaine. Fluorescein staining reveals superficial punctate epithelial surface irregularities, which usually cover the entire surface of the cornea. This condition is usually referred to as superficial punctate keratitis (SPK). If the patient's eyelid was partially closed during the exposure, a well-demarcated line separates normal from damaged corneal epithelium. Involvement of the lens is rare and occurs only after intense exposure.


Home care for ultraviolet keratitis includes:

    Avoid exposure to bright light.

  • Wear sunglasses.

Treatment Plan:

    An antibiotic drop or ointment (e.g., Vigamox®) should be instilled along with a cycloplegic agent (e.g., Cyclogyl®1%).

  • The more severely affected eye should be patched, and the patient instructed to apply a patch to the less affected eye at home.

  • A pain medication can be prescribed.

  • Follow-up is recommended to ensure epithelial healing.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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