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Article written by Dr. Daliah.

A study published in Ocular Immunology and Inflammation discusses seven patients who suffered eye injures while using UV germicidal lamps.

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Sengillo et al describe 7 patients who suffered from eye pain and redness after using UV lamps that were provided at home or their workplace to help “disinfect” in response to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Study authors stated exposure ranged from 10 minutes to 4 hours and some of the symptoms included eye pain, foreign body sensation, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.

It appears none were wearing eye protection while using the UV lamp, commonly recommended by the manufacturer.

They summarize the patient findings here:

The patients’ “photkeratitis” and “photoconjunctivitis” looked like this on slit lamp exam:

Photokeratitis is similar to a “sunburn” except of one’s cornea, rather than skin.

Photoconjunctivitis is inflammation by light of the mucous membrane that protects the eye and internal eyelids.

The patients were treated with either antibiotic eye ointment, antibiotic eye drops, steroid eye drops or lubricating drops. Although one patient was lost to follow up the rest who continued communication with study authors all had resolution of their symptoms.

Study authors state two of the lamps were “38 W, UV-C emitting devices sold under the trade names AURATM and UvilzerTM (Sheridan, WY), respectively. For both lamps, the manufacturer recommends avoiding direct contact while the device is turned on.”

UV-C is believed to have germicidal properties as the proteins and genetic material of the pathogen absorbs it resulting in destruction in cell walls and its ability to reproduce its DNA/RNA.

What’s the difference between UVA, UVB and UVC radiation?

UVA rays penetrate deeply into both the epidermis and dermis.  They can cause premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, and skin cancer.

UVB rays are shorter and primarily affect the epidermis. They are responsible for causing sunburns as well as skin cancer.

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UVC rays are shorter and usually don’t make it through the ozone in the atmosphere to the earth’s surface. They are, however, the most damaging of UV radiation.

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Lamps that produce UVC light have become increasingly popular.

According to the FDA, “UVC radiation has been shown to destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus, which is a different virus from the current SARS-CoV-2 virus. The destruction ultimately leads to inactivation of the virus.”

However, since UV-C radiation has been linked to skin burns and photokeratitis, and even skin cancer as some lights may also emit UV-B rays, consumers must remember to avoid direct skin exposure and avoid looking directly into the light, using eye protection if necessary.

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and is a Board Certified Family Physician

@DrDaliah