Signs of eye damage from staring at solar eclipse

BY NASEEM S. MILLER
ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

Ophthalmologists expect to see a few patients who might have injured to their eyes by staring at the sun during Monday’s solar eclipse.

Called solar retinopathy, the injury occurs when the sun

Marquis, left, and Kelly Marquis Andrew, of Lexington, Ky. kept a watch on the solar eclipse along with several hundred people in Thoroughbred Park in downtown Lexington on Monday.
(RON GARRISON/LEXNGTON HERALD-LEADER/TNS)

rays damage the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells in the back of the eye.

Patients may lose their central vision and only be able to see via their side vision. They may develop blurred vision and headache or lose the ability to see colors.

Not uncommon
These symptoms may develop immediately or in the hours after staring at the sun.

“Solar retinopathy is not very common,” said Dr. Jaime Membreno, an ophthalmologist at Retina Macula Specialists in Winter Park, in an email. “However I do see and treat many cases that are very similar to solar retinopathy every day.”

Absent a solar eclipse, solar retinopathy is mostly diagnosed among individuals who gaze at the sun during religious rituals, or are exposed to the sun for long periods of time during sunbathing.

There are also case reports of retinal injury in individuals who have stared at the sun when under the influence of drugs, including marijuana.

See a doctor
There’s no specific treatment for solar retinopathy, although doctors can accurately diagnose it with today’s available technology.

Recovery depends on the extent of exposure and the severity of damage. Some studies show that most patients recover their vision, usually within a year, although some long-term damage remains.

See an eye doctor if you think you might have damaged your eye.

Dr. Javier Perez, an ophthalmologist at Orlando Eye Specialists said in an email on Monday that he was “expecting a few patients after the eclipse,” but wasn’t sure how many.

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