Earlier this year, one woman decided to stare at the glorified solar eclipse in the US without eye protection for six seconds, an act that left her eyes permanently damaged.
Immediately after viewing the eclipse for six seconds unprotected, the woman tried again for another 20 seconds, but this time with the protection of the eclipse glasses. However, unfortunately, the damage was already done.
About four hours later, the woman complained of having blurry vision and only being able to see black. As awful as the situation is, this woman’s eyes have provided the first glimpse of what really happens on the cellular level when you look straight at the sun.
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, 88 percent of American adults watched the solar eclipse this past August.
This goes to show just how publicised the “Great American Eclipse” really was. Many people travelled to view the eclipse from the “path of totality” – where the moon completely blocked out the sun.
As reported in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, when the woman viewed the eclipse without protective lenses it was only 70 per cent covered by the moon.
She discovered the lasting effects on her vision three days after the eclipse when she visited the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, where doctors informed her that she had solar retinopathy, which is a rare form of retinal injury that occurs after direct sun gazing.
These photographs are the first images where we have been able to see the detailed effects of solar retinopathy at a cellular level. These images show that both eyes were affected, but the left eye specifically suffered from damaged photoreceptors and a lesion.
Sadly, no treatments for solar retinopathy currently exists. All of this isn’t new information: in 1962, one man looked directly at an eclipse and today he can only use his right eye.
Of course, scientists hope these detailed images can lead to a better understanding of the condition which will hopefully promote the development of potential treatments.
In the meantime, all we can do is stay well informed and explain the risks of viewing the sun without protection to those around us.