We protect our skin from the sun with lotions, clothing, and other accessories (parasol, anyone?). But did you know your eyes need sun protection too? Direct exposure or overexposure to sunlight can harm your eyes. It can even lead to serious or permanent damage over time.

In this article, we’ll discuss how the sun can damage your eyes, how to determine if you have sun-damaged eyes, and what you can do to protect yourself from the sun.

How the Sun Affects Your Eyes

You’ve probably heard that sunlight is good for you, and in many ways, that’s true. It’s a great source of vitamin D, which is necessary for a healthy body.

But sunlight can also have a negative impact if you’re not careful. When your eyes are exposed to a lot of sunlight, the UV rays can damage your eyes in several ways.

Diagram of types of damage to eyes from sunlight

UV Damage to Eyes

Sunlight is a source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Artificial lighting and tanning beds may also produce UV rays. These rays can damage the eye’s structure over time and with enough exposure. 

UV light can damage several parts of the eye, including the surface tissue, cornea, and lens. This, in turn, can increase your risk of various eye diseases. 

Here are a few eye conditions and diseases that excessive exposure to the sun may contribute to:

  • Cataracts 
  • Pterygium
  • Macular degeneration
  • Cancer related to the eye or eyelid
  • Photokeratitis, including snow blindness
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Symptoms of Eye Damage From the Sun

Sun damage to the eyes can result in short-term or long-term signs. Symptoms may not always be obvious and usually vary from person to person. 

If you think you might have sun-damaged eyes, here are some tell-tale signs many people with sun damage experience: 

  • Blurry vision
  • Scratchy feeling in the eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Redness or pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to the light
  • Halos (bright circles or rings around light) in your vision
  • Temporary vision loss

If you’re still not sure, it may be a good idea to reach out to your optometrist and schedule a comprehensive eye exam. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor can take a look and help you determine what’s going on and what to do about it.

Can You Repair Sun-Damaged Eyes?

Good news—most symptoms of sun exposure will subside after a little while—sometimes within hours or days. 

However, more serious eye conditions related to sun damage, such as cataracts or macular degeneration, may not go away on their own. Those conditions usually require treatment.

So, when you notice pain or changes in your vision that persist after a couple of days, contact your doctor to seek medical help.

How To Protect Your Eyes From the Sun

Properly taking care of your eyes when you are in the sun can help prevent UV damage. Consider the following prevention tips:

Use Sunglasses With UV Protection

It’s easy to assume that all sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun. But that’s not always the case. Some lenses don’t have the needed protection, so your eyes can be exposed to harmful UV rays, despite your precautions.

When shopping for the perfect frames, it’s essential to look at sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. If you’re unsure about your current sunglasses, maybe it’s time to consider a new pair. Investing in a good pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from sun-related problems in the future. (And who doesn’t love a new accessory?)

Wear a Hat

It’s always a good idea to wear a hat whenever you’re outside. Why? Some experts believe some hats can reduce the amount of UV radiation your eyes are exposed to by up to 50%. 

Adding a wide-brimmed hat to your outdoor look can protect your eyes, ears, face, and scalp from the harmful effects of UV rays.

Avoid Looking Directly at the Sun

Never look into the sun directly. We’ve heard it once, twice—so many times! Why the repetition? It’s that important. Looking directly into the sun can be detrimental to your eye health. 

When you look straight at the sun (with no protection), it may damage the retina or cornea and lead to other serious ocular conditions.

Protect Your Eyes With UV Sunglasses!

Your eyes need just as much protection from the sun as the rest of your body. For that reason, sunglasses—with UV protection, of course—can be your best friend to combat sun damage to the eyes.

At the end of the day, sun protection is all about the accessories! A great pair of sunglasses (with or without a prescription) and a stylish hat can do more than add flair to your look. They can keep your eyes safe too.

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