anderson cooperWhoa. Is anybody else kind of freaked out about what happened to Anderson Cooper?! If you haven't heard, Cooper went blind, as in, BLIND, for 36 hours on a recent trip to Portugal after spending an "extended period of time" reporting on the water without sunglasses.

Cooper (who can see again) describes the horrific-sounding experience thusly: "I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like my eyes are on fire, my eyeballs, and I think, oh maybe I have sand in my eyes or something. I douse my eyes with water. Anyway, it turns out I have sunburned my eyeballs and I go blind. I went blind for 36 hours."

He sunburned his eyeballs?! I didn't even know that could happen. Let alone that getting an eyeball sunburn can make you go blind (even temporarily).

But apparently it can happen -- though, thankfully, it doesn't happen too often. See, when the eye's outer layer, called the cornea, gets burned by the sun, it becomes inflamed. This is known as keratitis, an extremely painful condition that can also cause temporary blindness. Someone like Cooper, with light irises, is at a higher risk (and the fact that he was out on the UV-reflective water made things worse).

With treatment (numbing and antibiotic eye drops), vision is usually restored within a few days, but the damage is done -- much like when skin gets sunburned -- so protection is key. Of course, they don't make sunblock for eyeballs, hence the need for sunglasses. Even in the winter. 

This is pretty life-changing news, at least to me. I almost never wear sunglasses, mostly because I can never find a pair that I really like (partly because I always lose them and so I figure, why bother?). But sunburned eyeballs?! No thanks. See ya later, I'm off to shop for shades.

Do you wear sunglasses all year-round?


Image via Bart Everson/Flickr