Busy Philipps hospitalised for sunburnt eyes: What is photokeratitis?

Busy Philipps has revealed she developed Photokeratitis – sunburnt eyes after an all day photoshoot [Photo: Getty]

When it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun, we know to slap on the sunscreen, but did you realise it’s possible for your eyes to be sunburnt?

What’s more it can actually happen without the presence of the actual sun.

Just ask Busy Philipps.

Earlier this week, the ‘Cougar Town’ actress (and Michelle Williams’ BFF) took to Instagram to share an image of herself in hospital after being diagnosed with sunburnt eyes following an all-day photoshoot.


“Spent last night at Cedars [hospital] after I couldn’t sleep because it felt like there were shards of glass in both my eyes,” she wrote in the accompanying caption.

“I have Photo Keratitis from bright lights/sun exposure! WHO EVEN KNEW THAT WAS A THING?”

Later she took to Instagram stories to add: “It’s so on-brand though. I get one big magazine cover, and I do one photo shoot, and I burn my eyeballs.”

So what exactly is photokeratitis?

According to Mr Sanjay Mantry, consultant ophthalmologist at BMI Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow photokeratitis is an extremely painful condition that is caused when the surface layer of the eye – the clear ‘cornea’ – is exposed to UV light.

“This can be from natural sources, such as direct sun rays or sun rays reflected on sand, water, ice or snow, and also from man-made sources of UV light like tanning lamps and arc welders,” Dr Mantry explains.

Or in Busy’s case flashing camera lights!


In her Instagram stories and podcast, the actress explained that she’d been experiencing blurry vision for most of the day and found it difficult to open her eyes, which according to Mr Mantry are some typical symptoms of the condition.

“If you have it, or think you have it, so to see an ophthalmologist asap,” Mr Mantry advises.

“The good news is that it’s self-resolving, in other words it will heal itself. But the healing process itself is helped by treatments, which alleviate symptoms of pain, blurring, watering and temporary loss of vision,” he continues.

“We use artificial tears, painkillers, cold compresses on the eyelids – sometimes also antibiotics if there are abrasions/scratches on the cornea.”

And how do we stop it happening in the first place?

“Sunglasses are your friend in avoiding photokeratosis,” Mr Mantry advises.

“Make sure that they have a UV filter that block or absorb 99% of the UV rays. Snow goggles are a must if you are on the slopes. And if you are in the business of arc welding, make sure the visor on that welding helmet is down.”

And if you have blue, green or grey eyes take extra care as experts say you’re at a higher risk of developing the condition as your eyes are more sensitive to light.

According to AXA PPP Healthcare overexposing your eyes to UV rays can lead to cataracts and rare types of eye cancer.

So choosing the right kind of sunglasses is vital. They suggest looking for the ‘CE Mark’, which shows they conform to European standards, the British Standard (BS EN 1836) and sunglasses with a UV 400 label or 100% UV protection label.

Busy isn’t the only celebrity to have had a problem with sun exposure recently. Earlier this week Caitlyn Jenner shared a graphic photo of herself after undergoing treatment for skin damage.

The transgender activist – father to Kendall and Kylie Jenner – wanted to warn her fans about the importance of wearing sunscreen, following the removal of some “sun damage” on her nose.

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