How Does Sun Exposure Affect Eyesight?


While most people are well aware of the danger of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun’s rays, far fewer have heard about the harm prolonged exposure to the sun can have on eyes.

The effects of sun exposure on your eyes can be quite varied and severe. UV radiation, in particular, has great potential to do harm. Read on to learn about what UV light can do to your eyes and how to reduce the risks.

Rapid onset:

Photokeratitis.  Like a sunburn, a high dose of UV light can cause temporary damage to the surface of the eye.  It is often referred to as “UV Keratitis” or “Snow Blindness”.  Winter activities on snow and water activities like fishing and boating can increase your exposure due to reflection.  Like a sunburn, symptoms are generally temporary, but sometimes severe.  They include burning, watering, blurred vision, and pain.
Solar Retinopathy. More intense exposure to UV radiation from welding arcs or viewing the sun during eclipses can cause more permanent damage to the retina.  Like film in a camera, the retina helps gather light and form an image in the eye.  A burn to this layer can cause a permanent blind spot due to scarring.

Delayed onset:

Cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the internal lens that results from changes in the structure of its proteins. Some types of cataracts are age-related, but UV exposure and smoking can cause a more rapid onset.
Macular degeneration. This eye disease consists of damage to the most sensitive area of the retina called the macula. UV light, as well as short-wavelength visible light called blue light, can both cause damage.  Individuals with a genetic history of macular degeneration should be particularly mindful of sun protection.
Pterygium. Also called “surfer’s eye,” a pterygium results in (benign) eye growths in the corner nearest the nose. It is caused largely by UV-B exposure, dry winds, and sand in the eyes.  A pterygium can be removed surgically, but may leave a scar and may recur.

How Do I Minimize Risk Of UV Light Related Vision Problems?

You can’t hide from the sun. And, in fact, a healthy amount of sun exposure can help you regulate your sleep patterns to fight insomnia, reduce the risk of developing nearsightedness, and maintain healthier skin.
  • Wearing UV-filtering sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses or contacts is the most important step you can take for UV protection. Also, avoid staring into direct sunlight and overexposure to the sun.
  • Educate children on the dangers of looking at the sun, particularly with binoculars, telescopes or a magnifying glass.
  • Be aware that certain medications and contraceptives increase eye sensitivity and may require you to reduce daily sun exposure even more.
  • UV light is more intense at high altitudes, closer to the Equator, in wide open spaces, and between 10am and 2pm.
If you think that you are developing symptoms of an eye problem, do not hesitate to see a skilled optometrist. At Optical Solutions, Austintown, Ohio, we offer the latest in medical technology, and specialized service to fit your needs. Remember that your eyes are important and that catching vision problems early makes a huge difference.

Published by knanosky

Our first piece of advice when we bought our Airstream was from friends and fellow campers. They said to make sure you "keep the shiny side up." Something that struck me kind of funny, but so true :)

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