The sclera, or outer covering of the eye, comprises the portion of the eye commonly referred to as the "white" of the eye. The sclera is contiguous with the clear cornea, which covers the lens and iris in the front of the eye. Due to the bright white colour of the sclera and the network of blood vessels it contains, it can be a window to changes within the body. Changes in the colour of the sclera, especially in the case of brown spots, can be alarming. These spots, however, are commonly the result of sun exposure.
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Darker-skinned individuals may have brown spots or muddy brown colouration in the sclera even without excessive exposure to the sun. Found commonly in persons of African descent, these spots should not change much over time. However, the appearance of new brown spots in the sclera, or an increase in the size or darkening in tone of existing brown spots, may signal the presence of disease. Should these signs appear, an eye specialist should be consulted, in order to rule out disease.
Brown spots in the sclera are deposits of melanin, creating dark spots on the eye, just as they do on the skin. Pigmentation is hereditary, but other forces can also affect changes of colouration in the sclera. Sunlight is one cause of pigmentation changes in the white part of the eye. Stimulation from sun exposure causes an increase in the melanin already present in the sclera, which increases the colour and size of brown spots. Certain medications, such as antibiotics, may act along with sunlight to create brown spots in the eyes as well.
Adequate eye protection is important in eliminating the effects of sun on the eyes, including preventing damage. Sunglasses with excellent ultraviolet light protection should be worn. This protection will diminish the chance of brown spots or lessen those already present, and reduce the development of other troubling conditions produced by sun exposure.
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