Everyone in my family except my mother has dark eyes. My mother always needs a hat and sunglasses when she goes outside in the sun. The rest of my family are not so bothered by the sun. This made me wonder, “Are light eyes really more sensitive to the sun and why?”
An article on the Duke Medicine blog, published on August 27, 2013, explains that people with light colored eyes are more affected by photophobia because they have less pigment in the three layers of the eye. Photophobia is a sensitivity to light. An ophthalmologist at Duke, Anupama Horne, MD says that photophobia does not cause loss of vision.
A website called Science Q&A goes on to explain that a lighter iris allows more light into the retina. The website also includes the interesting fact that blue and green eye color is caused by a lack of pigment (melanin) not a different color of pigment. This lack of pigment creates the refraction of light called Rayleigh scattering that is the same process that causes the sky to be blue. Science Q&A explains that people with brown eyes have more melanin which provides a, “…protective filter that reflects the light back out of the eye.” Horne says that it is easy to protect your eyes if you do have photophobia. It seems like common sense but wear proper UV protective sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
A condition known as Pterygium also called “surfers eye” can occur from exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, and dust. It is a benign growth of cells. Once again, the use of sunglasses with side shields that block 100% of UV rays and a wide-rimmed hat are preventative measures.
So it is true that my mother’s sensitivity to light is most likely cause by her green eyes. If you have light colored eyes, make sure that you have a good pair of sunglasses and stock up on hats.
Here is a cool song about eye color from the 80’s you might like.