Dangers of UV Light Exposure

August 2, 2020

BY Jennifer Kessler, O.D.

Dangers of UV Light Exposure

It is well known that too much sunlight can cause damage to our skin, but did you know that it can be very harmful to our eyes as well?  Both UVA and UVB light can have long-term and short-term effects on our eyes and vision   Both can put you at risk for eye cancer, cataracts, sun burned eyes, and abnormal skin growths on or around your eyes. 


If you are exposed to large amounts of UV light over a short period of time, photokerititis can develop.  This is a painful condition where the eye becomes red and extremely sensitive to light with excessive tearing—basically a sunburn on your eye.  Luckily, the symptoms are usually temporary and not likely to cause permanent damage.


Repeated overexposure to UV light over a long period of time can significantly increase the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.  When you protect your eyes from the sun at an earlier age, you reduce the amount of UV light damage you accumulate over a lifetime.  This is why it is so important for kids and teens to wear sun protection while they are outside. 


It is also important to know that sunlight is strongest in the early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water or snow.  Also, clouds may block visible sunlight, but they are not effective at blocking UV light; so, cloudy days possess the same risk of UV light exposure as sunny days.  That is why it is a good idea to wear sunglasses that have 100% protection against UVA and UVB light whenever you are outside, regardless of the weather.