Can Sun Damage Your Eyes – Simply Yes

Okay ,”yes” is the obvious answer. The majority of us know that. But at the same time, many choose to ignore the question, “can the sun damage your eyes”? For some, it is just hind sight because they are used to not wearing eye protection from the sun.

This is why I want people to be aware of some risks they are taking by not wearing sunglasses for protection from the suns UV rays.

When outdoors a lot of people will go to great lengths to protect their skin, either by covering it up or applying varying degrees of sunblock protection. Some of these same people do not give the same consideration to their eyes.

For those of you that do wear sunglasses most of the time, I would like to reinforce the need to keep up this practice.

For those of you that do not regularly wear sunglasses, it is a good habit to get into. And it does become habit over time. Without over complicating it I am going to point out some negative effects that prolonged exposure to the suns UV rays can lead to.

What are UV Rays?Direct sunlight

When people buy sunglasses, many times they have no idea what kind of protection they are getting. They might be going for a look and not paying attention to the UV protection, for example.

In some cases such as these, it’s okay when you are not spending a lot of time in the sun and it is more of a fashion statement. When planning to be outside for extended amounts of time you need to know about UV rays.

I’ll try to make this simple. UV stands for ultraviolet. The sun emits three types of UV rays. They are types of electromagnetic radiation. The word “radiation” alone should have caught your eye.

They are invisible and penetrate through clouds and non treated glass, etc.

Here are the three forms of ultraviolet rays energy given off by the sun:

  1. UVA : This first one by far is the biggest percentage of the UV rays reaching the earth’s surface. The radiation from UVA can penetrate past the outer layer of the skin. This is why the skin tans when exposed to it. Actually you can compare it to an X-ray, which goes all the way through the skin.

2. UVB: These rays do not have as much energy as UVA rays. These are the ones that are noticed as eye and skin redness, sunburn and irritation. Basically it effects much of the outer surfaces.

3. UVC: This is the strongest type of the three. The good news is that this one doesn’t reach the earth’s surface, because it is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. I knew I could find some good news in there somewhere.

Now you have an idea of what the UV ratings are referring to when purchasing sunglasses. Keep in mind, when I was referring to the effects on your skin, it totally applies to the eyes as well. Think about how sensitive and delicate your eyes are compared to your skin. Now I am going to address some issues that can develop or progress from extended periods of time exposed to these rays without protection.

Skin Cancer in the Eye AreaSkin cancer in the eye area

You might be a bit surprised that the eyelid is accountable for close to 10% of all skin cancers. This makes sense when you consider how thin and delicate the eyelid really is. Without protection the eyes are generally exposed to the sun more than other parts of the body.

Cataracts and Glaucoma – Not Sun Friendly

Let’s begin with cataracts. Many believe that exposure to the suns damaging rays over time, is one of the primary causes for the formation of cataracts. These are actually eye protein formations that interfere with the efficiency of the eye’s lens to let light through as it should.

With cataracts the eye progressively get’s cloudy and vision is blurred, and distorted. Many don’t believe how bad it has progressed until they have corrective surgery and are amazed at what they have been missing.Eye cataracts

Glaucoma is a disease often associated with middle to older ages. This disease over time, allows fluid to build up in part of the eye, causing pressure on the optic nerve in front of the eye. It can be quite painful and can even cause blindness in some cases.

Proper sunglasses would definitely reduce the risks of cataracts forming and also the reduction of complications for people with Glaucoma.

Macular DegenerationMacular degeneration

Let me see if I can explain this easily. Macular Degeneration is a condition where part of the retina, the macula, deteriorates over time. This results in impaired vision and in a lot cases, eventual blindness. Similar to Glaucoma, blurred vision and distortion are common with this disease. Treatments for this condition basically are designed only to slow down the process. Hopefully a permanent cure is in the near future.

The point to remember here is, that if you suffer from Macular Degeneration, ultraviolet radiation can speed up this process.

Pinguecula and Pterygium – Let’s just call them the Two P’sPinguecula picture

In essence these two conditions are extremely similar. In fact Pinguecula can lead to Pterygium (don’t ever ask me to pronounce these). Pinguecula is a benign growth or formation of proteins, calcium, or possibly fat on the inside of the eyelid or the white part of the eye.

Pterygium results in a tissue covering part of the white of the eye. Also, benign, it can in some cases grow to where it actually covers part of the cornea over time. Both can be caused be extreme exposure to the sun and other elements such as smoke, wind, sand and other foreign air born elements provided by mother nature. This is why Pterygium is often know as “Surfer’s Eye”. (Why didn’t I just use that to begin with)?

Both are non-cancerous, but can become a nuisance or irritating over time. They can be treated if necessary, or surgically removed.

Enough of this bad stuff

These are a few of the conditions that can be either directly caused or influenced by the sun’s UV rays. My intention was not to alarm you, but to educate you on the adverse affects the sun can have if precautions are not taken.

It get’s better! We are going to find out how to best enjoy the outdoors. I spend so much time outside that I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to appreciate it.









  1. Oh my goodness! This sounds bad! I’ve had skin cancer once. I don’t want eye disease, too.
    How long does it take for the Surfer’s Eye to develop? Will wearing sunglasses while surfing (???) protect the eyes?


    • Hi Laura. Sorry it took me a little bit to get back to you. “Surfers eye” is just a simple name for the eye disease called Pterygium. They just call it that because it has to do with long term exposure to the elements, such as sand , wind and sun, much like surfers would encounter. It is more of an irritation than anything, but should be addressed by a doctor. Hope this helps.


  2. Very interesting post, thank you. Although, it’s common sense to wear sunglasses, some information was quite new for me. Bearing in mind, what damage can be done to the eye, it makes sense to even equipped infants and children with shades.

  3. I should probably get back into wearing sunglasses again! I used to all the time then last summer I lost my favorite pair and haven’t worn any since! Thanks for the article !

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