Sunburn, usually associated with red, burning skin can also occur on the eyeballs, as journalist Anderson Cooper learned while on a reporting trip in Portugal when he went blind for 36 hours.
The reporter, who was on assignment for CBS’ 60 Minutes, shared a photo of himself Tuesday on Instagram with his right eye covered by a patch.
“Temporarily blinded last week while on assignment. UV light bouncing off water. Much better now,” Cooper wrote.
“I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire, my eyeballs,” he said on his talk show, Anderson.
It turns out not just fair-skinned people, like the newsman, are susceptible to the condition, which occurs when ultraviolet light reflects off a surface such as water or snow, said Dr. Ivan R. Schwab, a national correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“The damage is done to the membrane of the cell and it breaks down,” Schwab told ABCNews.com. “It can be prevented by wearing ultraviolet sunglasses, which is like sunscreen for the eyes and they don’t have to be the most expensive brand. Any brand that documents ultraviolet protection should be sufficient.”
And as Cooper, who likely got burned by light reflecting off of water learned, the best treatment was time.
“The eye is going to make new cells,” Schwab said. “Patching will help the eye be more comfortable, but this gets better almost always on its own.”