Actress Busy Philipps started feeling pain in her eyes—and it ended up sending her to the hospital. Turns out it was from a sunburn...on her eyes.
On her Instagram story Monday night, Busy told her fans she was having problems with her eyes. “I can barely see straight. I’m going to the doctor tomorrow,” she said, per People. “I’m having some sort of crazy allergic reaction. I can’t open my eyes.”
She said that she was going to go to sleep and head to the doctor in the morning. “I’m going to try to lay down and close my eyes even though when I close my eyes it feels like there are shards of glass inside my eyeballs,” she said. But by midnight, the pain was too bad to stay home.
Busy later shared photos of herself at the hospital undergoing tests. “Spent last night at Cedars after I couldn’t sleep because it felt like there were shards of glass in both my eyes,” she posted on Instagram. “I have photokeratitis from bright lights/sun exposure! Who even knew that was a thing?”
What is photokeratitis?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, photokeratitis is “like having a sunburned eye.” It occurs when the eye is exposed to UV rays, either from the sun or from manmade light in sources like tanning lamps.
It sometimes happens when the sun is reflected off sand, water, ice, and snow, and a common form of the condition is also known as “snow blindness.” It also occurs in people who stare right at the sun during an eclipse (which is generally a terrible idea).
The sun exposure causes temporary damage to the cornea, the clear part of your eye outside the pupil, and the conjunctiva, which covers the inside of your eyelids and the whites of your eyes. Photokeratitis causes symptoms like pain, sensitivity, redness, and blurry vision, and—in very rare cases—temporary vision loss.
"Wearing proper eye protection year-round is imperative to prevent damage to the eyes from UV rays," says Christopher Quinn, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association, who cites AOA survey stats that found one-third of Americans don't wear sunglasses—and 43% of those who do don't check the UV ray protection. (Worth noting: The AOA recommends lenses that block more than 95 percent of UV-A and more than 99 percent of UV-B rays.)
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a doctor might prescribe eye drops if there’s any risk of infection. Otherwise, the condition usually goes away on its own, so doctors recommend just managing the pain by avoiding bright lights, taking pain relievers, and using cold compresses.
"If you suspect photokeratitis or sunburn of the eye, go to your doctor of optometry immediately to have your eyes checked," says Quinn, who adds that symptoms include red eyes, feeling like you have something in your eye, extreme sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing.
If you have vision loss or pain that lasts for more than two days, you should also get medical attention, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Busy said she ended up spending over four hours at the hospital, and speculated that a recent photoshoot was to blame for her photokeratitis. “I sunburned my eyes from my photo shoot today,” she said on her Instagram story. “It’s so on-brand though. I get one big magazine cover, and I do one photo shoot, and I burn my eyeballs.”
Later on, Busy posted an update while wearing sunglasses. (And that’s the right move. The American Academy of Opthalmology recommends wearing eye protection like sunglasses, but make sure they block or absorb 99 percent or more of UV rays.)
She told her fans that her daughter, Birdie, said, “That’s mum, she’s got thick skin, stomach problems, and sensitive eyes.”
Note to self: Always bring sunglasses.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.