Why not?

– Because you can cause serious damage to your eyesight.

Now you might think that people wouldn’t look at the sun would you, but you would be wrong – many people look up into the sky during an eclipse of the sun thinking that just because the light is poor the sun won’t do any damage, and this is simply NOT the case!

There DEFINITELY IS enough sunlight during even a total eclipse to cause damage – permanent damage – to the eyes, especially if as is often the case eclipse watchers insist on staring at the phenomenon for long periods.

It isn’t the heat of the sun that does the damage – it’s the light!

Light is focussed through the eye lens which concentrates that light at the back of the eye on the macula, an extremely light sensitive area of the retina. The light from the sun contains very harmful rays that the retina just cannot cope with!

Retinopathy is a general medical term used to describe any inflammation or degradation in the retina, usually caused by diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The term solar retinopathy is reserved to be used when the inflammation is caused by exposure to sunlight (and some other serious harmful light conditions).

What happens if you do look at the sun too long?

Fortunately any vision loss is usually recoverable, although it can take from a few months to a year before everything is back to normal.

Symptoms experienced obviously include loss of vision and can be measured during conventional eye tests, but also a “blind spot” – known medically as a scotoma – may form. The formation of a blind spot can be thought of as being produced on the retina in a similar way as a magnifying glass is able to produce a burn mark on a piece of paper if focussed correctly.

The question people often ask is “can looking at the sun cause blindness?” – and the answer of course is not really. Staring at the sun is not painful but it is difficult to do for long periods.

Treatment

There isn’t really any – but remember that any loss of vision is reversible; this means the important ingredient in the treatment protocol consists of big doses of patience!

And during the patience period maybe a thought or two should be given to the old adage “prevention is better than cure”.

How should you look at an eclipse?

The best thing to do of course is not look at it at all!

After every eclipse, even though warnings have been broadcast, there are always instances of mild to severe cases of “sun blindness”. Inevitably there are also assessments made and reported in medical journals

A good way to experience an eclipse safely is to watch it on TV.

If there isn’t a TV station broadcasting the event then why not make a simple pin-hole projector with a couple of cards. If you need help then do an internet search and you’ll find plenty of ideas.

Happy eclipse watching – just be careful that’s all!

24 Comments

  • by Balakrishna Posted July 26, 2017 1:08 pm

    Has anybody recovered from this. Today I was diagnosed with this.. Central vision has a glowing revolving sun like thing… Doctor said it doesn’t seem to be permanent and asked to revisit after 3 months…
    Any help is appreciated

    • by Jim Kokkinakis Posted August 12, 2017 12:48 pm

      This will depend on how long the exposure was for. There is nothing you can do about it and even visiting the Dr in 3 months will not achieve anything. It will probably settle in your case.

  • by Rein Posted May 9, 2017 8:53 pm

    Hi, I need your help.
    When I was 13 I joined a stupid contest who looked at the sun the longest. Now, after that I got a small yellow spot in my vision. It has been 15 years now, it’s still there and I don’t know how to remove that. Please help

    • by Jim Kokkinakis Posted May 17, 2017 12:39 pm

      Unfortunately this is solar retinopathy. You are very lucky that it is only a small spot. There is nothing with todays technology that can be done. You could try taking Lutein as a supplement. I doubt this will recover any vision but at least stop anything from getting worse. Never look at the sun.

  • by Marvin Posted October 9, 2016 8:37 am

    Hi, I am currently 21, and here’s my story:-
    When I was 12-13 I used to look at bright lights from vehicles, streetlights etc(i dont know why). I started having teary eyes and got my first spectacles at 15 (power -1.25D).I still have the same power and desperately want to get rid of the specs.
    Please tell me, is it because of the lights that got me constant power?
    is it reversible?
    and how?
    p.s. please do not tell all the laser surgeries
    Thanks in advance

    • by admin Posted October 12, 2016 9:09 am

      Your vision issue is very minor in the whole scheme of things. If your vision has not got worse from 15, it is actually very lucky as it normally does till 25 or so. This small prescription has nothing to do with looking at street lights, I can assure you. There is nothing you can do to reverse the vision at this stage. Often it self corrects when you get into your 40’s though.

  • by Tina Posted August 11, 2016 11:41 am

    Hi,
    I was taking my little one (almost 2 years old) to the daycare this morning (8am). He was sitting in his stroller and when we came around the corner of our house i bent down to get our sunglasses from the pocket under the stroller. After fumbling a minute i rise and see that the sun is directly in front and my little one staring right at it. He has very big round brown eyes. How likely is it that he may have damaged his sight permanently? He is so small and can’t tell me if he is having problems. I have been searching the net all day and came across this article and noticed there was a “recent” reply on the comments so I am giving it a go 🙂

    Is it common for kids to look at the sun? And if they by accident glance at it when scanning the sky for something else how likely is damage?

    Are childrens eyes more susceptible to sun damage than adults?

    My child got his sunglasses but I could not find mine so I got the sun in my eyes all the way to the daycare which is a 10min walk. I accidentally looked at the sun not only once but around 4-5times with just a 1sec glance each time since the sun was straight ahead and at head-level. Have I damaged my eyes permanently? My eyes seemed dry, tired and slightly out of focus one hour later, I do not think i have any blind spots but i do notice alot of tiny floting specs/dots and floaters when looking at a bright area or at the sky. They may have been there all along, but I have not noticed them before.
    Also colors seem less vibrant but it might be my imagination.

    Is the chance of eye damage largely redused by looking next to the sun or is this just as bad?

    Is it onetime incidents like this that cause most damage or is it sun exposure over time?

    Sorry for all the questions, I am a very curious person! 🙂

    If you see this and reply, thank you so much for your time!

    • by Jim Posted August 18, 2016 2:05 am

      A split second look at the sun is unlikely to be an issue. What we want to try and avoid is staring for many seocnds at the sun. This will burn the macula and leave some residual vision damage.

      • by Tina Posted September 19, 2016 11:05 am

        Thank you so much for replying! I did not see this until now.
        May I ask one more question? On a partially cloudy day is it damaging to view the sun through the clouds with sunglasses on? I am asking because I was out for a walk today and was looking at the clouds covering the sky and what I thought was the moon. I was looking at it for a long time (probably a minute) and suddenly the clouds dissipated and i saw the strong light coming through and I realised it was the sun.
        It really did look like the moon behind hazy clouds and I thought the sun was lighting it up.

        Should I be worried?

        • by admin Posted October 2, 2016 9:19 pm

          There is obviously nothing you can do now, but you are always better protected by not looking directly at the sun, even through the clouds.

  • by Amin Posted March 9, 2016 5:27 pm

    I looked at the solar eclipse this morning… n right i think my eye vision is kind of different… everything around me looks too bright… n colour of thing i see is kind of different too… so.. what happened to my eyes ? Is it just my feeling or there is something wrong with my eyes ?

    • by admin Posted April 23, 2016 2:36 am

      Armin never look at the sun or an eclispe. It is still too early to know if there is anything permanent.

      • by Nudnik Posted August 5, 2016 3:59 am

        If you stared at the sun and got a bright blind spot in your center vision that didn’t go away fairly quick how long until you would know the damage Is permanent?

        • by Jim Posted August 18, 2016 2:11 am

          I would think after a week or so you will be left with a subtle disturbance to the vision that moves as you move your eyesight. DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN!

          • by Jessi Posted September 13, 2016 6:01 pm

            You said after a week if the eye spot does not go away is permanent. Can laser surgery help with this problem?

          • by admin Posted October 2, 2016 9:28 pm

            No laser burns further tissue so in the context of a solar burn to the retina it will make it worse.

  • by Derek Posted January 27, 2016 5:29 am

    Many years ago I stared for too long at the sun.
    It left a mark in the very center of my vision.
    It looks like a shimmering diamond in the very center of everything I look at.
    Is there anything that can be done to remove it?

    • by admin Posted April 23, 2016 2:33 am

      unfortunately this can be permanent but will usually not get worse now.

    • by Joe Posted June 8, 2016 10:04 pm

      How long did u stare at the sun for? Also, was it partly cloudy?

  • by Chris Posted August 12, 2015 9:52 pm

    Hi there!
    I looked at the most recent solar eclipse (March 20th), without proper pretection. I looked at it for about 3 seconds, probably because I couldn’t see anything due to the heavy clouds, so I didn’t think anything of it. You weren’t able to see the sun at all when the eclipse was going on. I was very foolish, I know. Should I be worried or seek an eyedoctor to be sure everything is in order?

    • by admin Posted December 31, 2015 12:52 am

      Sorry for the late reply. If you have not noticed anything already then you have nothing to worry about. If there was a problem there is nothing you can do about it anyway. Do not do this again obviously.

  • by William Fletcher Posted December 23, 2012 3:17 pm

    The thing i dont understand is that it causes permanent damage but vision is recoverable, that makes no sense

    • by Jim Posted December 26, 2012 9:58 am

      Hi William, you are right in a way. The article is a little ambiguous. What we are trying to say is that in many cases any perceived vision loss is recoverable as the damage done was not significant. This occurs in most cases. Unfortunately there are quite a few cases of irreversible damage as well. This normally occurs to people that persist in sun gazing – a very stupid thing to do!

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