Chances are, you know that too much sun can damage your skin, but did you know it can harm your eyes, too? Your skin and eyes are both susceptible to problems caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. When it comes to your eyes, the damage from UV radiation is cumulative, which means the damage builds up over the course of your lifetime.
Unfortunately, this can have a permanent effect on your eyes and your vision. To combat the issue, wear sunglasses while outdoors to reduce the amount of UV light that reaches your eyes, and refrain from looking at the sun directly, even while wearing sunglasses.
Read on for some more information from optometrists in Cape Cod about how overexposure to sunlight affects your vision.
Short-term eye and vision problems
Exposure to high levels of UV radiation can cause some of the most common eye conditions, such as photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis. Inflammation of the cornea—the outer dome-like part of the eye—caused by UV radiation exposure is known as photokeratitis. Photoconjunctivitis is when the conjunctiva—the mucous membranes—becomes inflamed by UV radiation. Both can be caused by directly looking at the sun or the sun’s reflection glaring off surfaces, and both feel like a sunburn on the eye.
While these conditions are painful, they usually only last a day or two. Symptoms of photokeratitis include a gritty feeling in the eye, excessive blinking, eye watering, swelling, blurred vision and difficulty looking at light.
Long-term, more serious problems
The negative effects of sunlight on your eyes are cumulative and dependent upon the length of time spent in sunlight. Here’s a look at the types of eye problems associated with exposure to visible light and UV radiation:
- Cataracts: UV rays are a known cause of cataracts. This condition is characterized by the gradual clouding of the lens of the eye, which can destroy vision. It develops slowly, with symptoms such as blurred vision, general blurriness and seeing halos around lights.
- Pterygium: Also called “surfer’s eye,” pterygium is a soft, fleshy overgrowth of the conjunctiva. It usually starts at the corner of the eye closest to the nose, and is usually flesh-colored and pink. People who spend long periods of time exposed to UV light or in dusty environments are the most susceptible to this condition.
- Squamous cell: Topping the list of risk factors for squamous cell is exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Squamous cell cancers of the conjunctiva are slow-growing tumors that can cause complete vision loss. They look like a nodule on the front of the eye, and sometimes blood vessels leading to the nodule are visible.
- Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration is caused by long-term UV radiation exposure. This disease leads to progressive loss of central vision, which will likely leave a person with a blurry center field of vision, or lack of central vision altogether.
Don’t hesitate to contact the team at Bayview Optometrics for more information about the importance of protecting your eyes from the sun, or to schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists in Cape Cod.