Staring at the Sun…Is it really that bad?
When you have a two-year-old you notice just about every moving thing…including airplanes. We were at a water park close to the airport and that meant a jet would fly overhead every 5 minutes or so and we spent most of the morning staring up…sometimes right at the sun!
Though I knew to avoid looking directly at the burning ball of fire (or it would be bad news for my eyes), my little guy didn’t. As I instructed him to look away, I wondered: Is it really so bad to look straight at the sun?
The answer: Yes!
Looking directly into the sun is a good way to get a headache in the short term (and may even distort your vision temporarily), but it also could cause long-term (permanent) eye damage. We all know that UV exposure is bad for our skin, but it’s also bad for our eyes. And, staring right at the sun just compounds the effect of all those UV rays into one mega dose that could really mess up your eyes in the long run.
Eye disorders like macular degeneration, solar retinitis and corneal dystrophies have all been associated with UV exposure. Aside from these serious problems, you could also end up with a retinal burn from staring directly into the sun. And, interestingly enough, it doesn’t matter if the sun is shining bright, you can, in fact, cause even more significant damage to your eyes if you try to stare at the sun during a solar eclipse!
So, as we watched those airplanes fly across the sky, were we in serious danger of burning our retinas? Probably not. The normal eye can handle a fleeting glance at the sun and usually (except during a solar eclipse) staring at it for too much longer than that is just too uncomfortable to sustain.
But, it is important to always have some sort of UV protection over your eyes if you think you’ll be in the position to take frequent glimpses at the bright midday sun. Some contact lenses now offer UV protection that is wonderful! But, to be sure you are covered, most optometrists also recommend wearing sunglasses with a UVA and UVB protective tint in the lens over your contacts.
Remember many discount store sunglasses don’t offer the protection you need, so get your sunglasses from a reputable optical store like America’s Best to make sure your eyes are protected!