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Anderson Cooper's Temporary Blindness Is a Terrifying Reminder to Wear Sunglasses

by Jacqueline Burt on December 5, 2012 at 2:17 PM

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

Filed Under: celebrities, general health, healthy habits


  • CPN322


    December 5, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    I do. I'm one of those people that are highly sensitive to all the senses. I wear sunglasses even when most people wouldn't(i.e. cloudy out but still a little bright to me) and often times feel weird about it but I'd rather wear them then have my eyes hurt. Now I'm especially glad that I do!

  • My turn
    -- Nonmember comment from

    My turn

    December 5, 2012 at 2:39 PM
    This can also happen in winter from the glare off the snow. It's called snow blindness. The sun is not something to be trifled with.
  • Bob192


    December 5, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    How scary!!  I did not know this could happen either.  I wear regular glasses, so I don't usually wear sun glasses.

  • poshkat


    December 5, 2012 at 4:23 PM
    I never go anywhere without my sunglasses. I have light green eyes and can't see without sunglasses on sunny days. I also wear them on cloudy days, my eyes are extremely sensitive and I protect myself as much as possible
  • 4kidz916


    December 5, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    I always wear sunglasses.  My eyes are very sensitive to light. 

  • lalas...


    December 5, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    How scary!  Yes, I do.

  • Madel...


    December 5, 2012 at 8:50 PM


  • MamaB...


    December 5, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    Wow that is scary. I need to wear shades more often.

  • Miche...


    December 6, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    No I have progressive lenses and could not fork out another couple hundered for them in sunglass mode.

  • mommy...


    December 18, 2012 at 9:08 PM
    Yes I do. I get horrible headaches if I don't.
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