Anderson Cooper is used to reporting the news, but in early December the CNN anchor was the subject of a story himself after a boat trip in Portugal left him temporarily blind. While out on the water reporting for CBS’s 60 Minutes, Cooper was not wearing sunglasses. The sunlight both from above and reflected off the water burnt his eyes.
Cooper explained, “I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire…I think, oh maybe I have sand in my eyes or something…It turns out I have sunburned my eyeballs...I went blind for 36 hours.”
The condition experienced by Cooper is known as keratitis, which occurs when the outermost layer of the eye becomes inflamed. The outer layer on the front of the eyeball, known as the cornea, is similar to the outer layer of our skin. When it gets burned by the sun’s rays, it can lead to intense pain and temporary blindness. There is a higher risk of burning for individuals like Anderson Cooper, who have lighter-colored eyes.
“We have sunscreen we can put on our skin, but we don’t have eye drops that offer a protective film for the cornea, so it is really important that everyone, and especially people with fair or light eyes, wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays,” said Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, Senior Vice President of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
To lower your risk for future eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or skin cancer around the eyes, be sure to wear sun protection every day. “To keep your eyes safe, wear sunglasses and a hat with a three-inch brim. If you do get a burn, see your ophthalmologist right away,” advises Dr. Sarnoff.