According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), extended exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays may lead to eye damage. If you spend enough time in front of UV light sources, including the sunshine, you may be at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, photokeratitis, pterygiums, and more.
Fortunately, stepping away from UV light for a bit can help with symptoms of sun damage to your eyes. But is sun damage to the eyes reversible or just preventable (in many cases)? Here’s what you should know.
Is sun damage to the eyes reversible?
Whether sun damage to your eyes is reversible depends on your symptoms and condition. If your eye damage from the sun’s reflection is sunburned eyes (or photokeratitis), your eyes can revive within a few days. Keep in mind that this condition can happen in any environment, from the beach to snowy mountains, so you’ll need sunglasses when outside at all times of the year.
After looking at a solar eclipse without the right eyewear, your eyes may get sunburned and undergo indefinite damage. So, while many types of photokeratitis are temporary, this form is severe and often affects your vision in the long term.
If you develop symptoms of AMD after too much time outside without sunglasses, your condition may not be reversible. Problems seeing things in your immediate field of view may be continuous. For this reason, it’s best to contact an eye doctor if you have signs of AMD, which may include problems seeing colors or visual distortion.
For those who get cataracts, there’s no existing remedy to improve eye damage. However, some research has correlated antioxidants to decelerating cataract symptoms. Avoiding smoking and wearing UV-protective sunglasses may also help with cataracts.
Pterygiums are sometimes referred to as “surfer’s eye.” This condition occurs when tissues overtake much of your cornea, which can happen due to too much UV light exposure. Pterygiums can make your vision fuzzy and cause dryness in the eyes. While pterygiums can come back over time, they rarely cause permanent vision issues.
How to Reverse Sun Damage in Your Eyes
It may be impossible to reverse every type of sun damage, as those relating to eye diseases may be long term. However, if you possess any of the following symptoms of a sunburned cornea, we have a few tips for you.
- An increase in tears
- Bloodshot eyes
- Blurry vision
- Eye agitation
Here’s how to reverse sun damage in your eyes if you have photokeratitis:
- Let your eyes rejuvenate. A few days could be all the time your eyes need to heal from the sun damage. Try cold compresses on your eyelids to help with any discomfort, and always wear protective eyewear and a hat when you go outdoors.
- Consult an eye doctor. An eye exam may be essential to detect the full extent of the eye damage caused by the sun. After your exam, your optometrist may have a better idea of what can benefit your eyes.
And if you have a pterygium, start with eye drops. Your optometrist can also recommend other solutions to avoid symptom progression and get your eyes back to normal.
Summary: Can your eyes heal from sun damage?
Sun damage to the eyes is reversible in many cases. Your eyes can heal, but it depends on your eye condition and symptoms. If you develop an increase in eye tissues or if you get sunburned eyes, your conditions may be temporary. You may not even need to see an eye doctor.
However, if you have symptoms of eye diseases from UV light exposure over a longer period, the eye damage and vision changes may be long term. We recommend contacting an optometrist for the best treatment for sun damage to your eyes.
Find a nearby Independent Doctor of Optometry here. We look forward to meeting you.