Can Looking at the Sun Briefly Harm Your Eyes?

Most of us were told when we were kids that staring at the sun would make us go blind. While it is easy for the sun to catch our attention, our natural intuition is to look away because ironically, the sunlight seems blinding. But is it? Is there truth to the saying told by parents to children generation after generation? Can looking at the sun, even briefly, harm your eyes?

In the same way that skin can be damaged from prolonged sun exposure, so too can the eyes be harmed by looking into the sun. When the eyes are overexposed to ultraviolet light, the cells in the cornea are prone to crack and blister, just like a sunburn. Continuous staring into the sun can cause a condition known as solar retinopathy. Solar retinopathy occurs when intense light energy injures or damages the retina, the light sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Symptoms include blurry vision, loss of vision in the center of sight and eye pain. While recovery usually happens on its own and most people do not experience permanent visual acuity loss, permanent retinal damage is possible when a person looks at the sun for upwards of 100 seconds, or just under 2 minutes. While it is unlikely for someone to stare directly into the sun for this length of time without shielding their eyes, ultimately how long damage takes to occur depends on several factors including pupil dilation and intensity of the sun. For some people, it may only take seconds of staring directly at the sun to invoke damage, or at minimum, symptoms of what equates to a sunburn on the eyes, a painful eye condition known as ultraviolet keratitis.

Solar retinopathy and ultraviolet keratitis are not the only types of sun damage that occur in the eyes. Sun exposure without eye protection can contribute to a higher risk of macular degeneration, pterygia, pinguecula and cataracts. In the same way it is advised to wear sunscreen to protect the skin, eye protection is just as important to protect the eyes. Your vision depends on it. If you are concerned about how sunlight exposure may have affected the health and vision quality of your eyes, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Retina Consultants of Nevada by calling 702-369-0200 or visiting online at WEBSITE.