Can Your Eyes Heal from Sun Damage?
We all know that the sun can damage the skin. Sun damage is a primary cause of premature aging and can lead to skin cancer, age spots, and other aesthetic concerns.
However, skin damage isn’t the only concern when you’re spending considerable time in the sun. The same UV rays that damage the skin can also damage the eyes.
Sun Damage and the Eyes
Sun damage can increase your risk for many eye problems, including:
- Pinguecula or Pterygium – A pinguecula is a small growth on the white of the eye caused by sun damage. The growth appears as a small, yellowish bump and is made up of proteins, fat, or calcium. Pinguecula are often asymptomatic, but they can continue to grow and eventually develop into a pterygium, also called surfer’s eye. A pterygium is a prominent, fleshy growth that covers a portion of the eye. They are cosmetically unappealing and, in extreme cases, can interfere with vision. Both pinguecula and pterygium are prevalent in patients with high levels of sun exposure.
- Macular Degeneration – Macular degeneration causes gradual vision loss in the center of the eye caused by retinal deterioration. High levels of sun exposure can increase your risk of this condition.
- Solar Retinopathy – Solar retinopathy occurs after intense exposure to UV light. It is most commonly seen after sun gazing or watching an eclipse without proper eye protection. It can significantly impair vision. Most patients with solar retinopathy will experience an improvement in their symptoms after the eye has had time to heal, usually within three to six months. Some patients will experience permanent changes to their vision.
- Solar Keratitis – Essentially a sunburn of the eyes, solar keratitis is a painful inflammation of the eye after too much sun exposure. The condition usually goes away on its own after a few days.
- Cataracts – Cataracts are a primary cause of blindness worldwide. Sun exposure may increase the likelihood of developing this condition.
- Eye Cancers – The eyes can develop cancer from sun exposure, just like your skin and other areas of the body.
Can My Eyes Heal from Sun Damage?
The eyes can heal after sun damage, but they may experience some vision changes. Many eye problems caused by sun damage are cumulative, meaning they result from repeated and consistent sun damage over many years. Cataracts, pterygium, and macular degeneration are treatable, but will not resolve on their own.
Preventing Sun Damage of the Eyes
There are a few simple things you can do to protect your eyes from sun damage.
- Wear UV blocking sunglasses when you’re outside.
- Do not look at the sun.
- See your eye doctor regularly to catch sun damage and eye problems early while they are most treatable.
Furthermore, LASIK surgery can make it easier to protect your eyes from the sun- without the need for glasses. Many that wear glasses find it challenging to wear sunglasses regularly. They may also dislike having to carry two pairs of glasses or find the additional pair’s expenses too costly. LASIK surgery improves your vision, potentially eliminating the need for glasses and allowing patients to wear non-prescription sunglasses to protect their eyes.