Sun damage to your eyes, eye sunburn, and more conditions to look out for this summer
As you enjoy summer, there are a few safety recommendations we’d like to share with you so that you can make the most out of this season while still being healthy and responsible. Let’s talk about sun protection. Wearing a hat (with a brim all the way around) is an easy way to shade your ears, face, and neck¹. Wearing sunscreen is also an obvious choice to keep your skin healthy and secure, but how can you protect your eyes?
While most people will remember to wear hats or apply sunscreen to protect their skin from overexposure to UV light, most overlook the fact that the eyes also require protection from UV rays.
UV rays and the eyes
According to the AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology), you should wear proper eye protection from an early age to protect your eyes from the long-term effects of ultraviolet exposure. This is because the eye’s surface tissues, among other parts like the lens and cornea, can be damaged by natural sunlight rays².
Luckily, there is a sure way to prevent this damage. Using UV-blocking sunglasses is the best way to protect you from the commonly overlooked dangers of UV light on the eyes. You can stop by any of our Kodak Lens Vision Centres locations to find the best pair of sunglasses for you or you can also check out our Look Book to browse through our available models.
Did you know you can get a sunburn on your eyes?
It might not be as well-known, but you can definitely get an eye sunburn (photokeratitis). Sunburned eyes occur when UV rays cause inflammation and subsequently damage the eye’s surface and parts like the cornea.
Symptoms of photokeratitis (eye sunburn):
The eyes experience short-term and long-term symptoms from UV ray exposure. Short-term effects of overexposure to UV rays, like eye sunburn, are characterized by the following symptoms;
- Pain in the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Gritty feeling, as if you have sand in your eyes
- Watery eyes
- Eyelid swelling or twitching
- Blurred vision
- Seeing halos
However, eye sunburns aren’t the only problem you should be worried about. UV sunlight has other serious consequences.
8 sun damage conditions that can happen to your eyes
Here are 8 UV-related sun damage conditions you should be aware of this summer.
1. Corneal sunburn
This condition is painful and develops when the corneal epithelial cells are damaged by harmful UV light, leaving corneal nerves (underneath) damaged and exposed³.
Studies have also linked years of harmful UV exposure to an increased risk of getting cataracts – an eye condition characterized by the clouding of eye lenses and commonly linked with aging⁴.
This is a medical condition that manifests after being exposed to UV rays. It is distinguished by the damage inflicted on the corneal epithelial cells. The symptoms generally vary based on the degree of exposure to UV light and they can be mild to severe pain⁵.
4. AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration)
UV light is also linked to AMD, an eye disease that blurs the central vision. AMD occurs when UV light damages the macula (part of the light-sensitive retina tissues responsible for controlling sharp straight-ahead central vision). This makes it difficult to view faces, read, control machinery, drive, or perform other close-up tasks. In serious cases, AMD can cause loss of vision, especially among older persons⁶.
5. Growths on the Eye
Long-term sun damage is also linked to conditions like “pterygium” characterized by growth on the eye’s conjunctive that blurs or blocks vision⁷.
6. Sunspots in your eye
Sun damage can also cause colored freckle-like sunspots that resemble moles on your skin. The sun spots can occur around the iris, under the retina, or in the front of the eye. Although the sun spots can be harmless, there’s a risk of them becoming cancerous⁸.
This isn’t exactly an eye condition. However, UV rays can accelerate eye aging by triggering responses like squinting, which deepen wrinkles around the eyes in the long term. A pair of sunglasses can easily prevent UV damage-related facial aging.
8. Pinguecula and pterygia
Exposure to UV radiation can also cause “pinguecula” and “pterygium”, both of which are eye conditions characterized by growths on the clear covering of the sclera (conjunctiva) or white part of the eyes⁹.
If you have any of the above-mentioned eye conditions, we invite you to book a consultation with one of our optometrists to get your eye health checked out and make sure you are taking proper care of your vision and eyes.
What does sun damage on the eyes look like?
Sun damage on the eyes will look like the underlying eye condition. As seen above, different conditions cause different eye health concerns and conditions:
- Corneal sunburn resembles a skin sunburn with symptoms like redness
- Cataracts linked to sun damage make the eyes (pupils) look cloudy
- Sun spots look like freckles on the white part of the eye
Can you prevent sun damage to your eyes?
Yes. One of the best ways of preventing sun damage to your eyes is wearing UV-blocking sunglasses. Fortunately, you can look into our resources to learn more about the top sunglasses to consider for the summer of 2023. You can also find other great UV-blocking sunglasses on our Look Book, with several different UV-blocking sunglasses options to consider. Remember, good quality sunglasses can block up to 99% UVA and UVB light.
How to treat eye damage from the sun
If you already have UV-linked eye damage, all is not lost. You can take the following actions/steps to improve, manage or treat the underlying eye condition.
- Stay in a dark room
- Remove contact lenses (for those that wear them)
- Switch to your eyeglasses instead
- Place a cool, damp washcloth over your eyes
- Use artificial tears to relieve a variety of symptoms and provide relief and comfort. You can check out our “Top eye drops we carry” blog to know more about it.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes
Lastly, the best way to treat any eye damage from the sun is to book a consultation with one of our optometrists at Kodak Lens Vision Centres to learn the best course of action for your specific situation. Together, we can select your next pair of protective sunglasses and much more. There are also contact lenses that offer UV protection.
Feel free to visit us at any of our locations and we’ll help you get back to enjoying the summer in a safe and healthy way. In the meantime, consider wearing a hat with a wide brim and staying away from direct sunlight. Use an umbrella to provide extra shade and take breaks from the outdoors by going inside or finding a shady area if you plan to be out in the sun for a long time. If you have any questions about UV protection for your eyes or any other topic, you can click here to ask us directly and we would be happy to help.
- 2023, Sun Safety, cdc.gov
- David Turbert. 2020, The Sun UV light & your eyes, aao.org
- Christina Moon. 2023. Photokeratitis, eyewiki.aao.org
- Irene C. Kuo. 2019. How to Protect Eyes from UV Damage, hopkinsmedicine.org
- Christina Moon. 2023. Photokeratitis, eyewiki.aao.org
- 2021, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, nei.nih.gov
- Whitney Seltman. 2022. What is Surfers eye?, webmd.com
- 2022, Nevus (Eye Freckle), aao.org
- Allen Omid. 2022. Pinguecula and Pterygium, hopkinsmedicine.org