Anderson Cooper, veteran reporter for the news channel CNN, was temporarily blinded by a flash corneal burn from excessive sun exposure while researching a news story in Portugal. He was not wearing sunglasses. The reporter’s eyesight returned after 36 hours.
The host of Anderson Cooper 360 and Anderson Live, Anderson Cooper spent time on a boat on a sunny, windy day without sunglasses. That night, he awoke with eye irritation and burning eye pain. “It [felt] like my eyes [were] on fire, my eye balls.” Then he discovered he was blinded. Cooper sought medical attention.
The cornea of the eye is the clear tissue on the front of the eyeball. The cornea can be damaged by the sun and other source of ultraviolet (UV) light. It is essentially a sunburn of the eye surface, and is also called “ultraviolet keratitis.”
Symptoms take between three and twelve hours to develop, which explains why Cooper did not notice problems until hours later. Symptoms of a corneal flash burn include pain (from mild to very severe), bloodshot eyes, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, blurry vision and a feeling that there is something stuck in the eye.
When sun reflects off water, the effects are magnified. The combination of the sun, the reflection of the sun off the water, and not wearing sunglasses caused the burns on Anderson Cooper’s eyes.
Fortunately, a quality pair of wrap-around sunglasses prevents this type of eye injury. At Natural Eye Care, we recommend that the sunglasses’ label should say “blocks 99%-100% of UVB rays,” and “95% of UVA rays.” Amber is generally the best lens color; brown and neutral gray are also fine. Wearing a hat with a brim also helps. Taking a nutritional supplement each day that contains lutein and zeaxanthin supports overall eye health, and provides antioxidants to help filter light in the eyes.