Do we need to apply sunscreen to our eyes?

Nov 4, 2023 | 5 min


Using sunscreen to prevent sun damage and skin cancer is a primary prevention strategy that numerous people understand. We have to give it to dermatologists; they have perfected their PR strategy. However, when it comes to our eyes, many do not realize the importance or need to protect them. Sunglasses are more commonly viewed as a commodity than a primary prevention strategy. Wearing eye protection is an important step to prevent eye damage associated with sun exposure, such as cataracts

The Basics 

Cataracts is a leading cause of blindness and a commonly used health-care indicator. While 90% of cases of blindness worldwide occur ind eveloping countries, 80% of these cases are preventable. Cataracts can form when proteins in the lens break down due to factors like aging, genetics, diabetes, smoking, corticosteroids, and sun exposure. These changes lead to vision changes, such as diplopia and refractive errors that may lead to blindness. A primary prevention strategy to tackle this global problem is sun exposure awareness.   

The Role of Sun in Eye Health 

The sun has many redeeming qualities. UV rays undergo a chemical reaction with our skin to produce the vitamin that has a central role in bone health and immune system regulation. The photosensitive rods and cones in the eye's retina are part of a hypothalamic pathway that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to natural light strengthens our bones, allows us to get a good night’s sleep and has been shown to improve our mood. 

Ultraviolet Radiation and the Eyes 

UV radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is not part of the visible spectrum. There are two types of UV light that contribute to disease: UVA and UVB. UVA has a longer wavelength, while UBV has a shorter wavelength. UVA is associated with the changes seen in tanned skin, while UBV is associated with the changes seen in burned skin, while both contribute to eye damage. Rays are absorbed by the lens and increase the likelihood of causing eye damage. Studies are inconclusive on how much blue light damages our eyes, but the sun is a bigger source than screens. 

Prevention Strategies

Treatment of Cataracts

In previous years, the cataract material would be cut out. Currently, we use non-invasive strategies like ultrasounds to remove cataracts.During the removal process, an ophthalmic viscoelastic device (OVD) and intraocular lens are placed to preserve the front chamber and substitute the natural lens. 


In conclusion, while sun exposure has benefits, it's crucial to protect our eyes from potential damage. Prolonged exposure can increase cataract risks, a leading cause of blindness. To protect our vision and enjoy the sun, we can wear UV-protected sunglasses, use wide-brimmed hats, be aware of peak UV times, and get regular eye check-ups. Proactive eye care is as essential as skin protection.

Author: Lauren Khoury


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