Sunburned eyelids: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

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Excessive or prolonged sun exposure can cause sunburn, even on areas that are often forgotten, such as the eyelids (sunburned eyelids), the scalp, the lips and many more.

Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light. This can cause the skin to become red, hot, and painful. It can also cause blisters or peeling.

Sunburn can occur anywhere on the body, including the eyelids and ears. This is because these areas are often not covered with sunscreen.

If you get sunburned eyelids, it is important to take steps to cool and soothe the skin. You can use a cool compress, over-the-counter pain relievers, or aloe vera gel.

If your sunburn is severe or does not improve after a few days, you should see a doctor.

What are the symptoms of sunburned eyelids?

Sunburn usually appears a few hours after sun exposure, but it can take up to two days for the full impact to be felt.

The most common symptoms of sunburn include:

  • Pink or red skin: This is the most obvious symptom of sunburn. The skin will become red and inflamed, and it may feel warm to the touch.
  • Skin that feels hot to the touch: This is another common symptom of sunburn. The skin will feel hot and uncomfortable, and it may be painful to touch.
  • Tender or itchy skin: The skin may also become tender or itchy. This is because the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the skin’s top layer, which can cause inflammation and irritation.
  • Swelling: In some cases, the skin may swell. This is usually mild, but it can be more severe in severe sunburns.
  • Fluid-filled blisters: In some cases, blisters may form. These are usually small and clear, but they can be larger and more painful.

If your eyelids are sunburned, your eyes may also be sunburned. Symptoms of sunburned eyes, or photokeratitis, can include:

  • Pain or burning: If your eyelids are sunburned, you may also experience pain or burning in your eyes. This is because the UV rays can damage the cornea, the clear layer that covers the front of the eye.
  • Gritty feeling in your eyes: You may also feel a gritty feeling in your eyes. This is because the UV rays can irritate the lining of the eye.
  • Sensitivity to light: You may also be sensitive to light. This means that bright lights will be more uncomfortable than usual.
  • Headache: You may also experience a headache. This is usually due to the inflammation caused by the sunburn.
  • Redness: The skin around your eyes may also become red.
  • Blurred vision or “halos” around lights: You may also experience blurred vision or see “halos” around lights. This is because the UV rays can damage the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

These symptoms usually go away within a day or two. However, if they last longer than 48 hours, you should call your eye doctor.

When to see a doctor

Sunburn usually goes away on its own, but if you have a severe sunburn, you may need medical attention.

Here are some signs that you may need to see a doctor:

  • Blisters
  • High fever (over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit/ 38 degrees Celsius)
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Headache

If you experience any of these symptoms, for more than 2 days see a doctor right away. Sunburned eyelids or swollen eyes can cause damage to the cornea according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, retina, or lens.

How to treat sunburned eyelids

Sunburned eyelids can be painful and uncomfortable experience. Here are some at-home remedies to help speed up the healing process:

  • Cool compresses. Soak a washcloth in cool water and place it over your eyes for 10-15 minutes at a time. You can also use a cold compress.
  • Pain relief. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) when you realize the sunburn.
  • Protection. Wear sunglasses or a hat to protect your burned eyelids from further sun exposure. Sunglasses can also help with light sensitivity, even if your inside.
  • Moisturize. If your eyelids are feeling dry, use preservative-free artificial tears to provide cooling relief.
  • Avoid contact lens use. Take a few days off from wearing your contact lenses until your sunburn has resolved. Contact lenses can irritate your sunburned eyelids and make them worse.

Stay out of the sun. Sun exposure can irritate your sunburned eyelids and make them worse. Stay indoors for a few days to give your eyelids a chance to heal.

Don’t rub your eyes. Rubbing your eyes can irritate them and make the sunburn worse. If your eyes itch, try to resist the urge to rub them.

What’s the outlook for sunburned eyelids?

Sunburned eyelids usually heal on their own within a few days. However, if your symptoms do not improve after a day or two, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

Repeated exposure to UV rays without protection can increase your risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and even vision problems. To protect your eyelids from UV rays, sunglasses with 100% UV protection are the best option. A moisturizer with SPF can also be helpful, as the eyelids absorb moisturizer better than sunscreen.

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