When you spend time outdoors, it’s just as important to protect your eyes against ultraviolet (UV) light as it is to protect your skin. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), you may be exposed to UV light from the sun, in addition to tanning beds.
The most common forms of UV light are UVA and UVB. Your eyes may take in a significant amount of UVB light without harming the retina, in general. UVA light, on the other hand, can infiltrate the eye more, which may cause additional problems. The sun has a higher amount of UVA versus UVB, but it’s essential to protect your eyes from both.
So, what happens if you accidentally looked at UV light without wearing sunglasses? Here’s what you can expect.
Will I hurt my eyes if I accidentally looked at UV light?
If you accidentally looked at UV light, don’t worry. You might experience a corneal sunburn (or photokeratitis), as extreme UV exposure over a small time frame can cause this. This may present symptoms such as a greater-than-average tear flow, bloodshot eyes, or photophobia. However, this condition is quick to come and go.
While some light, such as blue light, may benefit your eyes to an extent, UV light from the sun doesn’t offer any advantages for your eyesight. In fact, being around UV rays for long enough may cause your eyes to age faster. You might also have an increased risk for many eye diseases and other problems.
Here are some eye issues to look out for, aside from photokeratitis:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Blue light and UV light can both impact the area around your retina, including how it develops over time. This may lead to AMD, one of the primary reasons for blindness among older adults.
- Cataracts: Being around UVB light, in particular, can increase your chances of developing this vision-altering eye disease.
- Pterygiums: You may have a higher chance of developing a pterygium (or a buildup of eye tissue) after spending time around UV light.
Can UV light bulbs damage my eyes?
Looking at UV light from any source can affect your eyes. That means observing UV light from artificial forms, such as light bulbs, just as much as the sunshine.
Your chances of getting age-related eye diseases can increase when you spend more time in front of UV light without eye protection. For this reason, we suggest wearing a hat at all times while outdoors. As long as your hat is wide enough to shade your eyes, it can repel up to half of the UV light that comes into contact with your sunglasses.
Summary: Will I have any problems if I accidentally looked at the sun?
Don’t panic if you accidentally looked at UV light. If you did it for a short block of time, your eyes might become sunburned, but this condition is often temporary. Just remember that prolonged exposure to UV light can play a role in eye diseases, such as AMD and cataracts, so you’ll want to take steps to protect your eyes no matter what.
UV light bulbs can affect your eyes just as the sun can. For this reason, we suggest wearing outdoor eyewear that defends against UVA and UVB light. By safeguarding your eyes with the right sunglasses, your eyes may benefit down the line.
Need help picking out the perfect sunglasses? Ask a local optical professional for assistance today.