FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- If you're spending time in the sun, your skin isn't the only thing you need to protect.
The sun's ultraviolet rays can also be dangerous to our eyes.
"In the Central Valley, we see a lot of patients with something called pterygium, which are little fleshy growths that develop onto the white part of the eye and then on to the cornea, that can affect vision and are very irritating," explained Dr. Mehdi Ghajar, an ophthalmologist at Eye Medical Center of Fresno.
Pterygium is just one of a few ways UV light can cause eye damage. Some others include cataracts and cancerous growths on the eye's surface or eyelids.
Treatments are available, but once your eye is damaged, it's permanent and can sometimes gets worse.
"Things like pterygium, which are more progressive damages, where you have the fleshy growth on the eye -- those require surgery," Dr. Ghajar said.
He stressed that it's important to protect your eyes from the sun the same way you protect your skin -- cover it.
Sunglasses are great at blocking out UV rays. Dr. Ghajar suggests making sure the whole family wears them outside because all ages, including kids, are at risk for eye damage.
"That's something unfortunate, because when they are outdoors and exposed to all that ultraviolet light -- defects are lifelong," he said. "So we should think about our children wearing sunglasses too."
Hats are another way to protect the eyes, as well as sunscreen. Dr. Ghajar recommends putting some under the eyes and on the eyelids.
Lastly, make sure you are getting your eyes checked annually.
If you're experiencing pain or redness in your eyes, your vision is slowly getting more blurry, or you're seeing flashes of light or black floaters, which look like pieces of thread, go to an eye doctor immediately.