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How Sunlight Damages the Eyes

The ultraviolet rays of the sun are not only harmful to the skin, but also detrimental to our eyes. Let's find out more about what kind of damaging effects sunlight can have on our eyes.
WellnessKeen Staff
Most of us are aware of the consequences of sun damage on the skin, and even take the necessary precautionary measures, in the form of sunscreens, hats, gloves, etc. However, not much is known about its harmful effects on the eyes. The invisible ultraviolet rays are quite capable of damaging one's eyes, which is why spending increased hours in the outdoor sun without appropriate protection can be harmful.

The UV rays absorbed causes a reaction in the eye tissue, which once occurs cannot be reversed. There are two types of UV rays, one called UVA rays, which penetrate to the back of the eye, and the other called UVB rays, which penetrate to the front of the eye. Both these rays are harmful.

Damage to the eyes can be caused by even a day's exposure to the sun, especially during the summer months, when the levels of UV radiation is particularly higher; 3 times higher than in the winter. Moreover, your eyes can also experience a sunburn from indirect exposure, like the reflection of sunrays from surfaces like pavements, sand, water, snow, etc.

Symptoms of Eye Damage caused by Sunlight

The symptoms of excessive sun exposure may not appear until 6-12 hours after exposure. The symptoms are as follows:
  • Headaches
  • Excessive blinking and tearing
  • Swelling of the eyes
  • Painful tearing
  • Sensitivity to bright lights
Some of the serious long-term problems associated with excessive sun exposure are temporary loss of vision, cataract, cancer of conjunctiva, benign or non-cancerous growths (pterygia) on the eye's surface, cancer of the eyelids, sunburn of the cornea, etc.

How to Prevent Eye Damage caused by Sunlight?

One needs to take some preventive measures to protect one's eyes from sun damage. Sunglasses may be considered as a fashion statement, however, they are important safety glasses that help prevent probable sun damage to the eyes. Everybody needs to wear a pair, irrespective of the age. In fact, children are more susceptible to eye damage, as they spend a lot of time outdoors. Sunglasses should be worn during early afternoons, and at high altitudes where the intensity of UV rays is higher. Often people avoid wearing sunglasses on cloudy days, however, UV rays can pass through the clouds, thus, it's important to put them on even on cloudy days.

Moreover, your sunglasses should be able to filter both UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, with the Eye Protection Factor for eyeglasses being somewhere around 10. For those wearing contact lenses, large lenses that fit close to the eyes are appropriate. Contact lenses that block 80% transmissible light should be bought.

While swimming, it is important to wear protective goggles, because the glare reflected from the surface of the water can damage the eyes. They make the eyes red and puffy, and can also conduce to corneal inflammation. Thus, it's very important to wear a pair of goggles while swimming. One should also wear a wide brim hat or cap, to minimize the amount of direct rays hitting one's eyes.

Take every necessary measure to protect your eyes from the harmful, invisible, high-energy UV rays of the sun. Once your eye has been damaged, it cannot be reversed. Buy proper sunglasses and take precautionary measures to prevent any kind of damage. An ounce of precaution is better than a pound of cure!

Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.