3 Consequences of Exposing Your Eyes to UV Rays

Sunglasses are sometimes seen as a fashion statement, but they're so much more than that. Good-quality sunglasses made to block UV rays protect your eyes from the harmful effects of sunlight. If you don't make a habit of donning your shades when you head out into the sun, your eyes will suffer in the long run. Specifically, here are three eye conditions that can result from excess exposure to UV rays.

Ocular Melanoma

You've likely heard of melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer that can develop due to excessive sun exposure. Melanocytes, the type of cells that are effected by melanoma, are also found at the back of your eye (and create the pigment that gives your iris its color). Thus, you can also develop melanoma in your eyes; this form is known as ocular melanoma.

The scary thing about ocular melanoma is that it does not usually cause any symptoms until it is quite severe, at which time it can start spreading to other locations in the body. Many patients do die, and others end up losing their eyesight as a result of the condition since the tumors—-and often the entire eye—need to be removed as a part of the treatment. You won't prevent ocular melanoma entirely by wearing your sunglasses, but you will decrease your risk of developing this condition.

If you have not been good about wearing sunglasses in the past, make sure you visit your eye doctor for regular exams so that if you do develop melanoma, it is caught as early as possible.


Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye begins to become cloudy, rather than clear. Initially, this just makes your vision a little blurry at night, but as the cataracts worsen, they may make your vision very cloudy. There is no treatment for cataracts other than to have your damaged lens removed and replaced with an artificial one.

UV exposure is one of the primary risk factors for cataracts. The more sunlight you allow to reach your eyes, the greater your chances of developing cataracts. You should be particularly concerned about cataracts if you have a family history of this condition, are a diabetic, or have gone through radiation therapy in the past.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that often begins to develop when a person reaches retirement age. It is a progressive deterioration of the macula, which is a cluster of cells near the center of the retina of your eye. As the condition worsens, your visual field will narrow until you're left with tunnel vision. Macular degeneration also makes it harder to tell the difference between similar colors, and it negatively impacts your ability to adjust to different levels of light. There is no cure, though there are medications that can slow the progression of the illness. 

There are many behaviors that can increase your risk of macular degeneration, and sun exposure is one of them. Exposing your eyes to too many UV rays when you're young will continue to impact them as you age. To prevent macular degeneration, it's also important to avoid smoking, get plenty of exercise, keep your blood pressure under control, and eat a healthy diet.

If you want your eyes to stay healthy going forward, head to the eye doctor to invest in a good pair of sunglasses today. Your eye doctor can help you select a pair that blocks 100% of UV rays. He or she will also make sure the lenses are large enough to shield your eyes not only from the front, but also from the top and sides. To learn more about your options, contact services like Absolute Vision Care.