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Understanding the Effects of the Sun on Your Eyes

Exposure to UV rays can have harmful effects on your eyes and your vision, just as it can on your skin. You should always wear sunglasses and a hat while outside, and be especially wary between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Proper sun safety can help ensure your protection against the following vision ailments:

Attractive girl with friends on beach.

· Cataracts

Prolonged exposure to UV light can contribute to the development of cataracts, which cause a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision. Cataracts affect millions of Americans, and many of these cases could be prevented with proper sun protection.

· Macular degeneration

This eye disease, caused by deterioration of the cells of the macula lutea, is the leading cause of blindness in the United States today. Years of UV sun exposure can damage the retina, and destroy sharp, central vision, leading to macular degeneration.

· Pterygium

This condition is caused by a tissue growth on the white portion of the eye. This growth can alter the surface of the eye, causing astigmatism. The disorder can even become dangerous if the pterygium grows over the cornea, where it can blur or block vision. An ophthalmologist can remove this growth through surgery, but the condition can often be prevented with proper sun protection.

· Photokeratitis

This short-term ailment can develop after only a few hours of severe UV ray exposure. Also known as snow-blindness, this painful burn of the cornea results in blurred vision and, in severe cases, temporary blindness. It is unclear how much UV exposure is necessary to cause photokeratitis, but it can easily be prevented with proper sun protection.

Dr. Mark Hornfeld is a New York City ophthalmologist with expertise in treating these sun-related ailments. We also offer complete eye examinations and other vision services. To learn more about the effects of sun on your eyes or to schedule an appointment to evaluate your vision, call (212) 580-8881.