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Eyes Hurt After the Solar Eclipse? What to Know About Solar Retinopathy

Eyes Hurt After the Solar Eclipse? What to Know About Solar Retinopathy

It is not safe to view a solar eclipse without wearing certified safety glasses. If so – or even if you’ve put on the right glasses – you may be wondering if your vision is good.

Looking at the sun without proper protection allows sunlight, including ultraviolet and near-infrared rays, to penetrate the retina. This can damage cells and cause burns, leading to a condition that ophthalmologists call photic or solar retinopathy.

Some people may begin to notice vision changes within a few hours, although it is most likely that they will become apparent the next day, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Symptoms of solar retinopathy include dark spots, blurriness, difficulty distinguishing colors and loss of vision in the center of the eye, according to the National Eye Institute.

These changes may be temporary or permanent.

Sunglasses Don’t Protect Your Eyes Enough During an Eclipse

Some people experience strange sensations with their eyes immediately after viewing the eclipse, even when wearing protective glasses. If your glasses were certified and you wore them correctly, the discomfort may be temporary.

Sometimes after looking through a filter, it can take a while for the eyes’ photoreceptors to adjust, which can cause a feeling of discomfort, according to NPR.

It is not safe to view an eclipse without protection when the sun is visible.

AP Photo/Andrés Kudacki

People who observe the eclipse, even for a brief period, without protection, however, are susceptible to damage. UV rays can also cause photokeratitis or “sunburned eyes.” Usually temporary, this condition causes pain and redness, and the eyes may feel gritty or twitchy.

Sunglasses don’t provide adequate protection during an eclipse, according to David Hinkle, an ophthalmologist at Tulane University School of Medicine.

Unlike sunglasses, Eclipse glasses are so dark that you shouldn’t be able to see through them, he said in a statement. “They are designed to filter out 99 percent or more of the light,” he said. “Anything that lets in enough light for you to see through or walk around would not be safe.”

If you experience vision changes or eye pain, even if you were wearing appropriate eye protection, call an ophthalmologist to make an appointment.

Solar Retinopathy May Be a Lifelong Condition

Many cases resolve over time, within a day or even a few weeks, according to a 2021 study published in the European Journal of Ophthalmology. But if the vision has not returned within six months, it is unlikely that this will be the case. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for solar retinopathy.

A doctor may examine your eye and notice changes to the retina, which may take on the appearance of the crescent-shaped sun causing the damage.

A 4-year-old child uses special glasses to look at the sky during a partial solar eclipse in Berlin, Germany.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

“I always, always say that if you notice anything strange in your vision, see an ophthalmologist,” Adriane Santa Croce, an ophthalmic sonographer at the Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, told Business Insider in 2017.

She added that “concerns about vision after the eclipse can reveal unrelated eye problems that people might not have otherwise discussed,” including vision changes related to diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration or glaucoma.


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