The Effects of the Sun on Your Eyes

Our eyes are a vital part of our sensory system that allows us to perceive and comprehend our environment. Sunlight is a fundamental source of illumination that helps us see, yet it can also damage our eyesight. Too much exposure to sunlight can lead to short-term and long-term eye damage.

Let’s take a look at the effects sunlight can have on the eyes and how you can protect your eyes from those harmful effects of the sun.

Eye Injury from Sun Exposure

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays without the protection of sunglasses or other eye protection can damage your eyes. Some of the issues that sun exposure can cause in the eyes include:


One of the primary symptoms of sunburn of the eyes is redness, which can be accompanied by a stinging or watering sensation. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it is important to get out of the sun immediately and seek the help of a doctor.


Photokeratitis is a painful condition that arises from the cornea being scorched by the hazardous ultraviolet rays from the sun. A type of photokeratitis is snow blindness. This type of damage usually occurs when spending prolonged periods outdoors in regions with snow or ice, where natural surroundings reflect the sun’s rays right into our eyes.

When in areas like these, you should wear protective goggles when engaging in winter or water sports activities. Even a fleeting encounter with sunlight reflected off water particles can injure our eyesight.


Pterygium (also known as Surfer’s Eye) is an eye condition that can occur when prolonged exposure to the sun leads to inflammation and tissue growth on the conjunctive. Occasionally, it can spread to the cornea as well.

It can cause itching, a pink growth to form on the eye, watery eyes, and a gritty sensation, and, if left untreated, can obstruct vision and may require surgery to be removed.

Eye Disease from Sun Exposure

Overexposure to the sun can also cause multiple diseases, such as cataracts where the eye lens thickens and hardens, leading to vision impairment.

Macular degeneration, a condition often linked to aging, can also develop early in life due to overexposure to the sun’s rays, which can lead to blindness over time if left untreated.

How to Protect Your Eyes From the Sun

Fortunately, there are several ways you can protect your eyes from the sun. Some of these measures you can take include:

Wear Protective Gear

The first step to protecting your eyes from the sun is to wear high-quality sunglasses. Not all sunglasses provide complete protection from the sun’s harmful rays.  Look for a pair that provides 100% UV-A and UV-B protection. On top of that, you’ll want to invest in a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes.

Limit Time Spent in the Sun

Spending time outdoors is beneficial to both your physical and mental health, but hours under bright sunlight can damage your eyes. Take regular breaks indoors or in the shade to reduce exposure to sunlight.

Avoid Tanning

Purposefully exposing yourself to harmful UV rays through tanning beds, lamps, or direct sunlight can cause long-term damage to your skin and eyes, particularly if you are not wearing protective eyewear.

Schedule A Consultation

If you have concerns about how the sun is affecting your eyes or how to manage an eye condition caused by sun exposure, our expert team at Eyecare Physicians & Surgeons of New Jersey are here to help you.

To schedule a consultation today, call one of our New Jersey locations or use our online scheduling form.

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