Sunlight Damage to Eyes

Although the eyelid is designed to secure the eye, its skin is extremely thin and contains lots of delicate tissues that might be hurt by UV light. Inside the eye, the lens and the cornea, both transparent, filter UV rays, but by doing so for many years, they may end up being damaged. This is especially true for the lens, which through years of UV absorption, turns yellow-colored and cataractous.

The lens is the eye’s transparent focusing mechanism, located between the iris and the vitreous humor (the clear, thick gel in the posterior compartment of the eye that fills the area in between the lens and retina, providing the eye its type and shape). The cornea, the transparent area in front at the outer layer of the eye, admits light and images to the retina. UV damage is instrumental in triggering:

Eyelid Cancers

Skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell cancer (SCC) as well as cancer malignancy, represent 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers. A lot of happen on the lower lid, which gets the most sun direct exposure. Basal cell carcinomas make up about 90 percent and squamous cell carcinomas 5 percent or more of all eyelid cancers, while cancer malignancies account for about 1-2 percent. basal cell cancers of the eyelid impact an approximated 16.9 men and 12.4 women per 100,000 people in the United States each year, and while basal cell carcinomas somewhere else on the body seldom spread, eyelid basal cell cancers have a substantial risk of infecting the eye itself and surrounding areas, causing major damage to the eye and disfigurement to the face.

The Sun, UV Radiation and Your Eyes
UV rays might result in macular degeneration, a leading reason for vision loss for older Americans. UV rays, particularly UV-B rays, may likewise cause some type of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.

Squamous cell carcinomas have a faster development rate and a higher potential to spread out. Both of these types of cancer are discovered generally in patients with a history of sun direct exposure. Melanoma can spread quickly in the eye area and can prove deadly if not dealt with quickly. Cancer malignancies have been linked to a history of intense, intermittent sun direct exposure and sunburns.

When detected and dealt with early, eyelid cancers generally respond well to surgery and follow-up care, with the eye and eyelid mostly maintaining normal function. With reconstruction, they typically remain cosmetically attractive. However left untreated, they are exceptionally dangerous and might even eventually permeate the brain. Look for these early warning signs:

  • a lump or bump that frequently bleeds or does not vanish
  • persistent red eye or inflammation of the eyelids that does not respond to medication
  • recently acquired flat or raised pigmented lesions that have irregular borders and growth
  • unusual loss of eyelashes

If you have any of these warning signals, consult a skin cancer specialist or ophthalmologist, even if you feel no discomfort.

Intraocular Melanoma

Although unusual, it is the most common eye cancer in adults. It begins in the uveal tract, the middle layer of the eye including the iris (the part of the eye accountable for eye color) and the pupil, which lies in the center of the iris. Symptoms may include a dark spot on the iris, blurred vision, or a change in the pupil’s shape. Often, however, there are no symptoms.

Conjunctival Cancers

Once uncommon, these cancers have actually been increasing quickly in occurrence in the last few years, based on NCI information. Research covering 10 percent of the U.S. population showed that incidence among white men especially increased – 295 percent over a 27-year period.

Conjunctival cancer malignancies might be more common in patients with irregular mole syndrome; these patients have 100 or more moles, several moles 8 mm (1/3 inch) or bigger in diameter, and one or more moles that are irregular. All patients with cutaneous cancer malignancies and/or irregular moles must have annual ophthalmologic evaluations.


A progressive clouding and yellowing of the crystalline lens, the eye’s focusing system. A minimum of 10 percent of cataract cases are directly attributable to UV direct exposure. In the United States alone, more than one million operations to remove cataracts are carried out every year. Cataracts are the most typical cause of treatable blindness worldwide, and UVB has been straight linked to cataracts.

Macular Degeneration

Often described as age-related, or senile, macular degeneration, it is brought on by damage to the retina with time. The retina is the ocular membrane where images are formed and sent to the brain; the macula, the region of sharpest vision near the center of the retina, is the most likely area to be harmed. Macular degeneration is one of the significant causes of vision loss in the U.S. for people over age 60. While further research study is required, some research studies indicate UVA and HEV light as prospective causes of macular degeneration.

Benign Developments of the Conjunctiva

Problems with the conjunctiva, the protective membrane covering the outside of the eye and the inside of the eyelids, normally establish later on in life. Pterygia, fleshy benign growths on the conjunctiva that may ultimately interfere with vision, might need surgical elimination. These unpleasant developments most frequently take place in areas where UV is extreme year-round.

Keratitis, or Corneal Sunburn

Excessive direct exposure to UV from the sun or tanning makers can actually burn the cornea, the eye’s clear refracting surface area that admits light and images to the retina. UV-protective lenses are for that reason especially a should for anyone who uses a tanning machine, as well as for skiers or snowboarders, considering that UV is more extreme at high elevations, and since snow reflects back the sun’s rays, so that they hit your eyes a 2nd time.

Essentially all these UV-related eye conditions can be found by an ophthalmologist during a regular eye exam. Therefore, it is essential to have a complete ophthalmologic exam, including dilated funduscopy, on a yearly basis.

Reyus Mammadli (Eyexan Team Leader) / author of the article
Bachelor in biomedical and electrical apparatus and systems. For more than 20 years he has been studying methods to improve health using affordable and safe methods. Collaborates with eye care charity organization of the CCP. Specialization is a vision correction by laser surgery, including LASIK.
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Ophthalmology: Health of Your Eyes
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