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A solar eclipse can cause eye damage, but you may just have eye strain

A solar eclipse can cause eye damage, but you may just have eye strain

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Large numbers of Americans looked forward Monday to enjoy the solar eclipse, snarling traffic and congesting small towns. The next day, many people searched Google to see if they had suffered damage to their eyes.

Solar retinopathy, permanent eye damage caused by looking at an eclipse without proper protection, is extremely rare. There are signs to look for to determine if you have irreversible damage or eye strain that will go away, according to American Academy of Ophthalmology. Here are some symptoms that may merit a visit to a health care professional, they say:

  • Blind spot in the central vision of the eye;
  • Increased sensitivity to light.
  • Distorted vision, as when a straight line appears curved.
  • Changes in how you see color;
  • blurry vision;
  • Headache caused by vision.

Solar retinopathy: Can you really go blind when looking at a solar eclipse? Cautionary tales from real life.

“It's really just a change in vision that you'll notice,” Dr. Ashley Brissett, a spokesperson for the Academy of Ophthalmologists and an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, told USA TODAY.

Symptoms can develop four to six hours after a person views the eclipse, she said. It is also possible that some people may notice damage a few days after viewing the eclipse.

These cases should be treated as urgent American Optometric Association He said. It is best to contact your eye doctor if conditions persist, even if they do not turn out to be solar retinopathy.

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There is no cure if you are diagnosed with solar retinopathy, which is why eye and astronomy experts have led extensive public awareness campaigns about the damage that led to the eclipse.

“If it sustains real damage, it will be persistent,” said Dr. Mario Motta, a member of the American Astronomical Society's Eclipse Safety Committee and a cardiologist in Boston. “Then people will start saying to us, 'I have a problem.'

It's important to keep in mind, however, that permanent eye damage due to an eclipse is very rare, according to American Astronomical Society. The group estimates that the last solar eclipse in the United States, in 2017, resulted in about 100 out of 100 cases. An estimated 150 million viewers. It's too early to know how many people have suffered eye damage from Monday's eclipse.

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What if I feel pain in my eye?

The retina does not have any pain receptors, so this is unlikely to be a symptom of solar retinopathy. However, this may be an indication of eye strain, which can occur even with viewing the eclipse safely using ISO glasses recommended by groups such as the American Astronomical Society.

It's like looking at your phone at full brightness in a dark room, Bissett said. It's uncomfortable, but it usually goes away. Experts noted that most cases reported to doctors' offices are likely due to eye strain, not solar retinopathy.

Examples from real life

There are only a few examples of permanent retinal damage.

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During the 2017 eclipse, a Staten Island woman used glasses she thought were approved for viewing and stared at the partial eclipse. She ended up with distorted vision that caused scarring on her retina in the shape of an eclipse, doctors at Mount Sinai New York Eye and Ear Hospital reported in the medical journal. Gamma Ophthalmology. She said it looked like the outlines of Pac-Man when she closed her eyes.

Decades ago, childhood friends Lou Tomososki and Roger Duvall, both 77, stared at a solar eclipse with one eye closed in Portland, Oregon. Both have been left with a blind spot in the middle part of one eye ever since, the friends told USA TODAY.