Following the total eclipse on August 21, 2017, the term “my eyes hurt” was one of the most searched phrases on Google, and for a good reason: people hadn’t been wearing any eye protection. With a solar eclipse happening somewhere in the world once every 18 months, it is important to be able to tell if accidentally looking at the phenomenon has caused any lasting damage to your eyes.
Where the damage occurs
Your eyes are made up of a number of components that all work together to give us the most precise vision our bodies can manage. However, when looking at the sun, this can cause irreversible damage. While the sun may be covered during a solar eclipse, the light is just as powerful as it always is; the sun is simply easier to look at without protection. While looking at the sun for any amount of time is dangerous, this means that viewing the eclipse for longer than 10 seconds with your naked eye could begin to cause an issue.
The part of your eye in the retina known as the fovea has the job of making sure we have sharp, and central vision. However, when looking at an eclipse, this is the part of the eye that gets damaged the most. Damaging this part of the retina causes a condition named solar retinopathy.
In our retinas, you won’t find any pain receptors, which can mean the symptoms won’t be apparent straightway. It is usually about 12 hours after looking at the eclipse that issues will begin to arise. Some people just experience a slight blurriness on their vision, while others can see everything distorted, have a blind spot in only one or both of their eyes, have an increased sensitivity to any light, or even developing chromatopsia – a condition that means the way in which you see color is altered.
Treating the issue
Thankfully for most people that suffer from solar retinopathy, their symptoms will naturally go away in a few months, but they can stay around for up to a year before disappearing. A lot of these people will book in to see an optometrist (a special eye doctor), but when going back for a checkup appointment a few months later, the symptoms will usually have cleared up on their own. Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. Some individuals can be left with a blind spot that appears in their vision that can last for a number of years, while some sufferers of solar retinopathy will find their symptoms last a lifetime.
To ensure that nothing like this happens again, or to prevent any form of solar retinopathy in the first place, there are a number of precautions that can be followed. Creating a box projector is a great way to see the eclipse without having to look directly at the sun, and there are plenty of tutorials online on how to make them. If you don’t fancy a DIY project, then solar eclipse glasses or filters are available to buy which will help keep your peepers protected while allowing you to enjoy the view.
Mother Nature is a beautiful beast, but she can also be incredibly dangerous if not treated with respect. While seeing all the wonderful spectacles on offer is a fantastic thing to do, safety should always come first before getting the best view. Solar eclipses are incredible sights, but they also come with a ton of dangers if you’re not careful. However, hopefully, now you will be able to tell if you have any damage to your eyes, as well as knowing how to prevent this in the future!