Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Staring At The Sun Bad For You?

Also Known As: sungazing



Short answer

Staring at the sun for a short period of time can cause damage to your eyes, but it's generally temporary. However, staring at it for an extended period of time can cause permanent damage.



Long answer

While many people love watching a sunrise or sunset, most avoid staring directly into the sun for fear of damaging their eyes. It is common knowledge that staring at the sun can be harmful to your eyes, but few people know what actually happens when you turn your eyes directly toward the sun. So, what does happen and how dangerous is it?

The most common eye injury from staring at the sun is a sunburn. That is because that, as soon as you start looking directly at the sun, the fragile outer layer of your eyeball begins to develop a sunburn due to the sun's severe UV light. The sunburn causes the outer layer of the eye to blister and crack and is usually associated with symptoms of eye irritation and producing more tears than normal. Fortunately, this type of eye sunburn is temporary and wears off within a day or so.

If you stare at the sun for an extended period of time, you can damage not only the outer layer of your eye but your retina as well. Staring at the sun for more than a minute (give or take) can damage the tissues of your retina, which is comprised of a group of cells that allow you to see by transmitting the images in your field of vision to your brain. Damage to retinal tissue can heal within a few months to a year, but it can also cause partial or complete permanent blindness.

All in all, you shouldn't fear for your vision if you accidentally glance up in the sun's direction for a few seconds. If you value your undamaged sight, however, it's best not to stare deliberately at the sun for any extended period of time.

Possible short-term side effects

  • eye sunburn

Possible long-term side effects

  • partial or complete blindness

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Written by Shaylie F | 02-05-2016

Written by Shaylie F
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