Experts have long warned that watching a solar eclipse without proper eyewear can lead to potential damage in your eyes.
But what might that damage look like?
Dr. Linda Chous, chief eye care officer for UnitedHealthcare, helps answer that question.
If you’ve looked at the eclipse without glasses, do you feel the adverse effects immediately or over time?
It is unsafe for anyone to look directly at the sun for any length of time or during an eclipse, as damage can occur within seconds of exposure. The sun is incredibly bright – some 400,000 times brighter than a full moon. Any amount of exposure can cause short-term and long-term damage.
If immediately, what are the signs?
Short-term issues can include solar keratitis, which is similar to sunburn of the cornea (the front part of the eye). This can cause eye pain and light sensitivity, with symptoms often occurring within 24 hours after exposure.
If over time, what are the things you should look for?
Long-term issues can include solar retinopathy, which is when the sun burns a hole in the retinal tissues, usually occurring at the fovea. This can cause loss of central vision, with symptoms occurring immediately to two weeks after exposure. Depending on the severity of the retinopathy, vision problems can last for months or be permanent.
How do you know if you might have damaged your retina/vision?
There are often no immediate signs of eye damage after viewing an eclipse without proper eye protection. Symptoms can occur immediately, within several hours or even weeks after exposure. Potential signs of damage include sensitivity to light, eye pain and loss of vision in one or both eyes.
Is there anything you can do immediately following viewing without the glasses?
Visit a local eye care professional for a comprehensive exam if you or a family member experience discomfort or vision problems following the eclipse. It is important to note there can be a delayed response to any damage incurred during an eclipse, with symptoms showing up hours later.