Eclipse-watching can be a site for sore eyes

2 minute read

Without proper precautions, viewing solar events can leave a permanent reminder.

Don’t you just hate it when your parents were right about stuff?

Especially when there’s so much parental wisdom that you find out later on in life is utter bollocks.

Such as? Don’t go to bed with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold. Nup, it’s a virus. Or, don’t go swimming for at least an hour after you’ve eaten a meal. Sorry, got nothing in the logic department for that that holds water.

However, when the parents said: “Don’t go staring at the sun because it will burn your eyes,” well, it turns out that the oldsters were right there.

This sage advice sprang to mind earlier this week when millions of North Americans were suitably awestruck by a total solar eclipse.

Public health warnings re donning suitable eye protection to witness the event were widespread, but regardless of those efforts, search trends from Google showed that terms such as “retina damage”, “eyes hurt”, “can’t see”, “blind” and “eye damage” all spiked in the hours after the eclipse.

Hopefully, this time around no one damaged their eyes as badly as one person did during a solar event in 2017. 

According to a report in The New York Times, a young woman, who had viewed a solar eclipse with her naked eyes, checked herself into the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Hospital after reporting that when she opened her eyes she saw “a black area in her vision, shaped like a crescent reminiscent of when the moon is about to completely block the sun”.

Ophthalmologists at the hospital described the shape as “almost like a branding” where the eclipse had literally burned itself into the woman’s retina. They also described the retinal scar as so severe it was not going to heal.

The doctors were so astonished by the scarring they prepared a paper about the case which was published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The pictures of the damaged eye presented in the paper are suitably gruesome and serve as a graphic reminder of the dangers of not listening to the wisdom of the folks who know a thing or two about the sun and your eyes – even if they happen to be your parents.

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