Clear Eyes® Eye Care Blog

Sunlight and Sensitive Eyes: What You Need to Know

Did you know that some studies suggest that time outside in sunlight as a kid may help prevent or lessen development of nearsightedness (myopia)? Kids in certain parts of the world who did not spend as much time outdoors had much higher rates of myopia than those who were exposed to more sunlight.

While that may be one benefit of sunlight to eyes, there is still good reason so many people wear sunglasses when outside. They help protect our eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Plus, wearing sunglasses reduces stress on your eyes, which is especially helpful for people whose eyes are sensitive to sunlight.

How sunlight can affect your eyes

If sunlight hurts your eyes and results in significant or frequent pain, you may have photosensitivity or photophobia—extreme sensitivity to light. This could be due to a medical condition, dry eye or damage to your eyes, so you should check with your eye doctor if you feel pain in your eyes due to sunlight or bright light.

People with sensitive eyes, in general, can wear sunglasses to help lessen their sensitivity when outdoors. Wind and sun can make eyes feel more irritated and sensitive, but sunglasses can help in both cases.

Another reason to wear sunglasses is because your eyes can get sunburned if they’re exposed to UV rays for too long without protection. This eye sunburn is called photokeratitis. This can happen when the sun reflects off of snow, water, ice and even sand, so wearing sunglasses in these conditions is a smart idea. Signs your eyes may be sunburned include eye pain, blurred vision, tearing, twitching, and redness. You may also get a headache and see halos of light that interfere with your vision.

Staring directly at the sun can cause more severe photokeratitis. Watching a solar eclipse directly without using a special device can damage your eyes, actually burning the retina, which is more serious and can be longer lasting than temporary damage described above.

Helping to Protect sensitive eyes from sun damage

The best way to help protect your eyes from sun damage or sun sensitivity is to wear quality sunglasses. Look for a sticker or tag that says they block or absorb at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays. If you are skiing or snowboarding, wear ski goggles that block UV rays at the same rate. Wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses helps reduce sun reflection and glare, protecting your eyes and allowing you to see more clearly in bright sunlight. If you have sensitive eyes, polarized sunglasses can also help to reduce the stress and strain of being in bright light. If you choose polarized lenses, you still want to make sure they block UV rays too.

You also have other options. Mirrored sunglasses help lessen the amount of light that reaches your eyes. Photochromic lenses lighten and darken in response to how much light is around you. Some people with light sensitivity like photochromic lenses for both indoor and outdoor use, as bright lighting indoors can cause eye sensitivity symptoms as well.

Relief of irritation for sensitive eyes

If you’re spending a lot of time outdoors and your eyes feel irritated, sore, dry or gritty, you may want to try our Clear Eyes® Complete For Sensitive Eyes. It provides gentle, effective relief of sensitive eyes irritation. Another tip is to gently wash your eyelids and around your eyes, taking care not to rub or scrub. Add eye drops after patting your face softly dry. Clear Eyes® Complete for Sensitive Eyes provides up to 12 hours of gentle, soothing relief. They have no parabens, dyes or benzalkonium chloride.

If you have any concerns about your eyes—frequent or sudden eye sensitivity, a change in vision or eye pain—before trying any drops, call your doctor. Explain how your eyes feel and what you were doing before these changes occurred.

Your eyes are important, so doing everything you can to protect your eyes is important too.