3 Eye Conditions Sun Exposure Can Cause and How to Prevent Them

Globally, vision issues are rising across all demographics, with over 2.2 billion people diagnosed with some form of refractive error.

Experts, like the CDC, note that this comes from circumstances relevant to our time, such as climate change and increased screen times. However, one reason for vision impairments has been a cause for concern for generations: the sun.

Granted, the sun does have its benefits, including potentially curbing the progression of myopia.

That said, with the sun’s UV rays becoming more penetrative every year, its ocular cons steadily outweigh its pros. A survey by the Vision Council even found that 34% of adults have already experienced the effects of UV overexposure on their eyes. To further elaborate, here are some of the most common sun-related eye conditions and how to address them.

Leading UV-related eye issues

Macular degeneration

Responsible for severe vision loss in most adults over 50, macular degeneration is an eye disease that impacts the light-sensitive macula. While macular degeneration is more common among older adults, even those under 50 can develop this.

What’s more, macular degeneration can be passed on, which is why some children experience a juvenile version of this. Evidence has found that prolonged exposure to UV can hasten the development of this macular degeneration, given that the rays can cause retinal nerve and cell damage. This makes it even harder for the eyes to perceive light, thereby hindering the macula’s ability to provide central vision even more.


Contrary to popular belief, cataracts can happen to anyone.

Even young adults and infants have been diagnosed with this condition, wherein vision becomes cloudy. As per the National Eye Institute, exposure to too much UV light can trigger the protein in the eyes’ lenses.

Over time, this protein can clump together, causing the identifiable white “clouds” in cataract patients. According to the WHO, up to 20% of all cataract cases are directly linked to too much UV damage.


Sometimes simply referred to as growths, pterygium is characterized by significant masses on the eyeball itself. In this condition, the conjunctiva, which is the outermost layer of the eyeball, is partly covered by a fleshy overgrowth. This condition commonly happens to those who linger under direct sunlight for long periods, like farmers or surfers. If left untreated, it can grow to cover the cornea, too.

How to prevent ocular sun damage

It’s important to understand that sun damage is cumulative and cannot be reversed. This means that prevention is key. As such, one of the best practices to adopt is wearing sunglasses regularly.

The right pair will have coatings capable of blocking 100% of UV rays, so you don’t have to worry about them entering the eyes.

What’s more some brands like Oakley and Ray-Ban even offer sunnies with polarization and wraparound styles. While polarized lenses fight painful glare for enhanced visual comfort, wraparound frames offer better coverage so no rays can enter from the sides of your eyes either.

Apart from this, you’ll also

want to keep your eyes well-lubricated. While staying hydrated by drinking fluids can help keep the eyes healthy in many ways, when under the scorching sun, you need to add an extra layer of moisture. After all, without enough lubrication, the eyes can become dry, itchy, blurry, and painful.

This can also make them more sensitive to any further damage. On such occasions, it pays to have eye drops on hand.

If you already have vision concerns, applying these throughout the sunny day will prevent UV rays from exacerbating any discomfort you may already feel. Products like Visine or Bausch + Lomb offer solutions that can soothe the eyes, much like regular tears, so they’re safe for daily use.

All in all, the sun’s negative effects on the eyes should be taken seriously. While treatments are available to help manage any ocular sun damage, proactive prevention ensures you and your eyes can enjoy bright and clear vision for longer.

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