Consequences of Long-term UV Exposure for Eyes

senior woman with eye pain

Sunlight is necessary for all life on earth. It produces UV (ultraviolet) rays that can be harmful with long-term exposure. The most common consequence of UV overexposure is skin cancer. However, the same can also affect your eyes in the following ways.



Photokeratitis is a painful inflammation of the cornea. The cornea is sensitive to UV rays from direct sunlight and reflections from snow, sandy beaches, and large water bodies.


Its symptoms include light sensitivity, red eyes, excessive tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eyes. The condition can cause temporary blindness.


Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is partial damage to the retina. The macula lies at its center and is also where you receive your central vision. Damage to the macula results in blurry eyesight and eventual blank spaces in your range of view.

The condition often affects people above the age of 50 and progresses slowly. Its effects are irreversible, so available treatment aims to slow its progression.



Pinguecula is a condition that creates white or yellow bumps in the conjunctiva. It is common in people who live in dry, sunny areas with a lot of dust and sand. The disease is persistent once it presents itself. Treatment with eye drops only helps quell the symptoms that include red or swollen eyes.



Most people develop cataracts due to old age. However, there is evidence that the condition may also develop from persistent exposure to UV rays. People living around the equator may develop the disorder more often than others. It involves the clouding of the lenses of your eyes and is the leading root of blindness worldwide.


Eating healthy diets with fruits, green leafy vegetables, and antioxidants can delay the onset of the disease. Chronic deterioration of the lenses can result in complete blindness.




Pterygium is a white, wing-shaped growth in the conjunctiva. If it continues to grow, it can result in corneal scarring. Without medical intervention, the enlargement can cause irreversible vision loss. Fortunately, treatment for the condition is available through surgery. However, the operation is controversial as pterygia can recur even after removal.


Skin Cancer

Long-term exposure to UV rays can cause cancer on your eyelids. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest in the whole body. Some of the damage it causes include blotchy pigmentation, dryness, loss of elasticity, wrinkles, sagging, and accentuated skin furrows.


Other forms of cancer from UV rays include basal cell melanoma, squamous cell, and cutaneous carcinomas. Squamous-cell carcinoma can go beyond the skin and affect the conjunctiva. In severe cases, the doctors may have to remove your entire eye.


Protecting Your Eyes

Despite the dangers of UV rays on your eyes, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. One among them is by wearing sunglasses whenever you are outdoors. Ensure that the glasses are wraparound and have UV protection.

Alternatively, you can wear wide-brim headgear that can shade your eyes. You can choose to combine the two options for better protection from the sun.


For more information on the consequences of long-term UV exposure to the eyes, contact Eye Care North at our office in Cave Creek, Arizona. You can call us at (480) 781-4446 to book an appointment today.

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