When it comes to sunlight and our eyes, we know some things for sure. It is true that long-term UV exposure is associated with cataracts, cancerous growths, macular degeneration, and corneal damage. We know that the right sunglasses will block out the majority of UV rays. But when it comes to the benefits sunlight may have for your eyes, it’s more difficult to make definitive statements. The evidence is limited and research is ongoing, but there is some indication that limited sessions of being outside without sunglasses may be good for adult sleep cycles and the development of children’s eyes.
Wear Sunglasses Outside
First of all, sunglasses with 100 percent UVA/UVB protection should be worn when you are outside, most of the time. Especially if you will be out for extended periods of time. You should wear sunglasses while driving during the day. This protection will reduce your risk of the eye problems discussed previously.
A growing body of research suggests sunlight may be beneficial for eyes. According to the New York Times, the shape of children’s eyes may be influenced in part by their time spent outdoors in the sun. More children are developing nearsightedness than has been the case historically; some experts have theorized that the longer eyeball length associated with myopia may be a result of less time spent outdoors.
When it comes to adults, small amounts of bright indirect sunlight helps your body make vitamin D, promotes good sleep by regulating the sleep/wake cycle, and may improve your emotional wellbeing (source: WebMD). Some experts believe that even a few minutes of bright indirect sunlight in the morning may contribute to these benefits. But it’s important to protect your skin and your eyes from the sun most of the time.
So What Should You Do?
If you have children, talk to your pediatrician about sunglasses, outdoor play time, and sun exposure. Teach your children to never look directly at the sun! We know for sure that has disastrous consequences for our eyes.
As an adult, you should continue to wear sunglasses most of the time, especially at midday, when you are out having fun in the sun, and when you’re driving during the day. It might not hurt to have your morning cup of coffee in front of a sunny window. Ask our Loveland, CO, ophthalmologists what’s right for your eye health.