A total eclipse of the sun is a spectacular and short-lived event. If you are lucky you may see something like this a few times in your life. As the 2017 total eclipse event in the US nears, many people need to take some time to think about protecting their vision. In fact, without the right kind of eclipse eye protection, solar retinopathy is a real possibility. So what is this condition and how can it affect your vision? Let’s look closer and see.
What is Solar Retinopathy?
Retinopathy is a condition in which the retina of the eye is damaged. It can be from disease or outside causes. Solar retinopathy is all about damage caused by exposure to harmful rays from the sun. So what is the retina?
Many people believe we see with the eyes, but in reality vision takes place in a special region of the brain located near the back of the head. In order for vision to occur in the brain signals must be transmitted in a form of energy the brain can interpret. This is where the optic network of the eyes comes into play.
The retina is a layer at the back of the eyes which is responsible for transmitting light into electrical energy the brain uses. In fact, visual data is transferred in an “upside-down” manner to the brain and the brain flips it around. If the retina becomes damaged (by not using approved eclipse eye protection) vision can become drastically impaired.
Who is at Risk for Solar Retinopathy?
Everyone with vision is at risk. However, young people are more at risk than older adults. It is believed that eye lenses are clearer in the young and they have the ability to transfer a greater amount of light to the retina.
You are at risk if you stare at the sun or directly at a solar eclipse event. In fact, some studies show as little as 60 seconds of exposure to the sun’s UV and infrared light can damage the retina.
After improper eclipse viewing, there may be no symptoms for hours. However, within a few hours you might feel a stinging sensation or a feeling like sand or grit in your eyes. If the damage is severe enough you could experience blurred vision and headache pain. These problems are usually felt in both eyes but not always. Some people with severe damage may develop a spot in the eye which can cause blurriness.
There is good news and bad news when it comes to dealing with solar retinopathy. First the good news, it may only be temporary and it can easily be prevented. Now the bad news, it can be permanent and there is no effective treatment. Prevention in the form of approved eclipse eye protection is the best course of action.