“Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy …”
John Denver was on to something when he penned those soothing lyrics. A daily dose of natural light lifts mood, boosts alertness and helps our bodies produce the vitamin D we need to stave off the aging process. It’s essential to a better quality of life.
But what won’t make you happy is what can happen when you get too much sunshine without proper protection. Ultraviolet light in the sun’s rays can cause eye damage when you view intense light, view it too directly or spend a lot of time outdoors without UV-blocking eyewear.
Here are six of the top ways sunshine can damage your eyes—and what you can do to protect your vision.
- Macular degeneration
There is evidence to suggest that UV light has a negative effect on the macula, the tissue at the center of the retina that helps your eyes focus clearly on objects directly in front of you. This damage can lead to farsightedness, blurriness and even blindness if not treated.
Cataracts are a natural and extremely common consequence of getting older. Over time, the proteins in the eye’s natural lens begin to cluster together, clouding the normally clear lens. UV exposure can accelerate this process.
Just as your skin can burn in the sun, so can your eyes. Intense and/or prolonged overexposure to bright sunlight can produce a sunburn to the delicate eye tissues. The result is pain, tearing and temporary vision loss.
- Cancer of the eye or eyelid
Eyes are not immune to cancer either. Unprotected tissues in, on and around the eyes can develop melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Cancer in the eyeball may first show up as shadows or squiggly lines in the field of vision.
Prolonged sun exposure can lead to potentially disfiguring benign growths on the sclera (the whites of the eyes) and possibly the cornea. Also known as “surfer’s eye,” pterygium can happen to anyone who spends long hours in the sunshine without eye protection. The most common symptoms are pain and blurry vision.
Pinguecula is fairly common in individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors or in dusty environments. This raised, yellowish growth forms on the white part of the eye closest to the nose and can disrupt the tear film that keeps the eyes clear and comfortable. There are many causes of pinguecula, including dust and debris, wind and persistent dry eye disease, but ultraviolet radiation is the most common cause.
How to prevent UV damage to your eyes
Many of the most common UV-caused eye injuries can be treated or can heal on their own, if caught early enough. But the best course is always an ounce of prevention:
- Never look directly at the sun or bright reflections of sunlight.
- Purchase sunglasses labeled as 100 percent UVB/UVA protection or UV 400 protection.
- Wear sunglasses consistently, even in cloudy conditions and cooler seasons.
- Double up on your eye protection with a wide-brimmed hat that keeps ultraviolet rays off of your face.
Most importantly, continue getting regular eye examinations to check for potentially dangerous sun damage in and around your eyes. With early intervention, you and your eye doctor can keep your eyes healthy and in good working order.
Lake Lazer Eye Center offers up-front pricing, and convenient and affordable payment plans for Detroit LASIK procedures and the SMILE procedure. Dr. Khambati has helped thousands of people from all over the world escape the restrictions of glasses and contacts. In the event that you’re not a candidate for vision correction, we’ll assist you with a contact lens evaluation or a selection of designer and specialty eyewear.