How the Sun Affects Your Vision

Dec 12, 2022
How the Sun Affects Your Vision
You know what the sun does to your skin, but you may be surprised to learn about the damage it can do to your eyes. Keep reading to discover why sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory.

Sunglasses cut down on annoying glare, and they definitely can, and should, complete your outfit year-round. But they also perform a critical role in your eye health.

Here, Dr. Sophia Barnes, our expert optometrist at Vision Corner in Houston, Texas, explains how the sun affects your eyes and what can happen if you leave your peepers unprotected.

Ultraviolet light and your eyes

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiation. Although UV light can come from various sources — including fluorescent lights, black lights, tanning beds, and curing lamps — the sun is the major provider. The sun emits UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. The Earth’s ozone layer absorbs most UVC rays, but the others get past that part of the atmosphere. 

UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and typically only reach the outer layer of your skin, causing a tan or sunburn. The UVA rays penetrate more deeply and reach the dermis, which can damage your DNA and cause cancer.

These ultraviolet rays also penetrate your eyes and wreak havoc on your eye health. Here are a few of the consequences if you fail to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

Sunburned eyes

Your eyes can burn just like your skin when exposed to the sun for too long. Called photokeratitis, sunburned eyes feel gritty, painful, and sensitive to light. You may also have eye pain, headaches, twitching, tearing, redness, blurry vision, and swelling. Photokeratitis damage may be temporary or permanent.


Cataracts are cloudy lenses caused by the breakdown of proteins in your eyes. Although cataracts can occur due to genetics, diabetes, and normal eye changes as you age, excess exposure to UV light is one of the known causes of cataract formation. Symptoms include double or blurry vision, light sensitivity, and poor night vision. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The macula is a small area of your retina that helps create sharp central vision. Over time, your macula breaks down, causing wavy lines, blurry vision, and dim or dark areas. However, long-term exposure to sunlight can accelerate the process and contribute to premature AMD. 


Too much UV exposure can lead to fleshy growths (pterygia) that spread from either corner of your eye toward the center. If the growth covers part of your cornea, it can hinder your eyesight. Because the main cause is sun exposure, pterygium is common among surfers who get a double dose of UV rays from the sun and reflection from the water, thus the nickname: surfer’s eye.

Snow blindness

A severe form of photokeratitis, snow blindness occurs when your eyes receive intense exposure to UV rays that bounce off of ice, snow, water, or sand. In addition to the symptoms of photokeratitis mentioned above, you experience temporary vision loss. 

Eye cancers

You know the sun contributes to skin cancer, but many people don’t realize that it can also lead to eye cancer, specifically conjunctival melanoma

How to protect your eyes this winter

Sunglasses and prescription sunglasses are your best bet when it comes to protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. But not all sunglasses are helpful. Here are some tips for choosing the right pair.

  • Insist on 100% UV protection
  • Remember that darker glasses don’t equal more UV protection
  • Understand that polarized lenses reduce glare, but polarization alone doesn’t block UV rays
  • Larger lenses provide more protection for surrounding eye tissue

If you plan to spend time on the ski slopes this winter, talk to Dr. Barnes about special lenses to help you avoid snow blindness.

At Vision Corner, you don’t have to sacrifice style for protection. We offer a vast array of frames, lenses, and brands to keep your eyes healthy and your style rocking. Explore our sunglasses collection in person or online.

Protect your eyes this winter with high-quality eyewear. To talk to Dr. Barnes about your eye health, schedule an appointment by calling or booking online today.