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Is it OK to stare at the sun with your eyes closed?

Is it dangerous to stare at the sun with your eyes closed? I've heard it's good for your brain to get light that way, but we all know that the sun can damage your eyes with its UV rays. Is there any risk?
While exposure to sunlight has a number of health benefits including vitamin D production and improved mood, the intensity of direct sunlight can do significant damage to your eyes even when your eyes are closed. You should always wear sunscreen on your skin (minimum SPF 30) and limit your sun exposure so that you do not damage your skin with harmful UV rays. You should also wear sunglasses that are labeled as "UVA/UVB blocking" so that your eyes are protected from the damaging effects of the sun. It is important to only wear sunglasses with this level of protection, as wearing unprotected sunglasses will cause more damage to your eyes by allowing your pupils to dilate, thus exposing your eyes to additional UV rays. Because your eyelids are only composed of a thin layer of tissue they do not provide adequate protection from the sun to allow you to face the sun directly. Even with high quality sunglasses you should still never look at the sun directly. At the back of each eye you have a collection of cells called the retina which is responsible for for absorbing light and transmitting a visual representation of the world to your brain. These cells are very sensitive to light and can be damaged by very bright or prolonged exposure to light. If you are concerned that you have damaged your eyes by looking into or near the sun you should see either your primary care physician or an ophthalmologist for further diagnosis and management.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.
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  • Boston Children's Hospital
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  • Brigham and Women's Hospital
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  • Mass General Hospital
  • Beth Israel Medical Center
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