The Sun and Your Skin
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation harms more than just your skin. Too much unfiltered sunlight can harm your eyes by damaging the lens and even the retina. This damage can take the form of snowblindness, cataracts, macular degeneration, and melanoma of the eye.1,2
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, rendering all images blurry and out of focus. Overexposure to the sun's UV rays can damage the lens of the eye and increase your risk of developing cataracts. According to the World Health Organization, 16 million people worldwide are currently blind as a result of cataracts, and as many as 20% of these cases may be due to UV exposure.
Retinal damage - Macular Degeneration
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can damage the retina (the sensitive lining of the eye used for sight). Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (an area in the retina) is damaged, thus causing loss of central vision. While studies have yet to prove what causes macular degeneration, it is possible that overexposure to the sun’s UV light may be a contributing factor. Most forms of retinal damage are irreversible.
Melanoma of the Eye
Excessive exposure to sunlight increases risk of melanoma of the eye. This is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly to other organs. It can also begin on the skin or other organs and spread to the eye.
Melanoma of the eye can affect several different parts of the eye, and symptoms vary from no symptoms to poor vision, bulging eyes, change in appearance, or pain. The disease is treatable, especially if caught early. The best way to prevent eye melanoma is to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, especially between 10am and 2pm, wear sunglasses that protect against UV rays, and get a yearly eye exam to catch any abnormalities early.3