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What happens if you stare at the sun

What happens if you stare at the sun?

Friday 20 March 2015

We all know it hurts, but what are the real effects of looking at the sun? From sunburn to blindness, here are a few good reasons to turn your eyes away…

As children, we learn quickly that looking directly at the sun causes discomfort and leaves us with watering eyes and a visible “spot” where the sun has burned it’s fiery imprint into our eyeball’s memory. But what are the real dangers?

Not surprisingly, the key factor is how long we look at the sun for.

In the short term, your eyeball begins to get sunburnt. The symptoms start to manifest themselves a few hours after the event, and can include inflammation of the skin around the eye and uncontrollable eye-watering. As long as the exposure was only short, these unpleasant effects will only be temporary.

Stare at the sun for a little longer, however, and it can be a very different story. It is very easy for the infra-red rays of the sun’s light to damage the retina – literally “frying” it - which sounds painful but in fact it is often not painful at all. However, damage to the retina can be permanent, and can result in partial or even completer blindness.

There is also a risk associated with long-term exposure of the eye to the sun’s rays. The eye’s lens can react adversely to too much UV light, which can lead to cataracts and aberrant tissue growth known as pterygium. If left untreated, these UV induced cataracts can obscure vision and leave a person blind.

Eclipses present a very real temptation for us to look directly at the sun. Alex Ionides, consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields Hospital in London, says that following the last solar eclipse in 1999, the hospital saw a large increase in the number of people coming in with damage to their eyes. However you look at it, the sun is most definitely not to be stared at.


  1. Daily Mirror:
    Why looking at the sun could fry your eyes.
  2. How stuff works:
    What if I looked straight at an eclipse of the sun?.


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