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What to Do If Your Eyes Hurt After Watching an Eclipse: Signs of Eye Damage and How to Respond


The appeal of a solar eclipse is undeniable – a rare event that attracts millions worldwide. However, among the wonder and excitement, it's important to prioritize eye safety. Despite precautionary measures, some may still find themselves experiencing discomfort or pain in their eyes after looking at the sun during an eclipse without protection.


So, what should you do if you're experiencing eye pain or discomfort post-eclipse, and how can you detect signs of potential eye damage? Let's delve into this critical topic. 


Understanding Potential Eye Damage


Exposure to the sun's intense rays, even during a partial eclipse, can lead to various forms of eye damage. The most common short-term issue is solar keratitis, akin to a cornea sunburn. Symptoms include eye pain, light sensitivity, and typically manifesting within 24 hours of exposure.


However, the more insidious concern is long-term damage to the retina, known as solar retinopathy. This condition occurs when the retina is damaged by staring directly at the sun, decreasing or distorting central vision. Detecting solar retinopathy immediately is challenging, as symptoms may not appear until hours or days later.


Signs of Eye Damage


  • Changes in color vision: One of the earliest signs of eye damage post-eclipse is a change in color perception. Colors may appear faded, bleached out, or hazy, indicating potential retinal damage.

  • Vision distortion: Individuals may experience distortions in their central vision, such as seeing straight lines as wavy or bent. This distortion can significantly impact daily activities like reading or driving.  

  • Eye pain and sensitivity: Persistent eye pain, discomfort, or heightened sensitivity to light are red flags that warrant immediate attention from an eye care professional.

  • Vision holes or blind spots: Some individuals may notice the presence of blind spots or gaps in their field of vision, indicating damage to the retina.  


What to Do If Your Eyes Hurt After Watching an Eclipse


  • Seek medical attention: If you experience discomfort, pain, or visual disturbances changes after viewing an eclipse, it's crucial to consult an eye care specialist promptly. Delaying medical attention could exacerbate the damage.

  • Rest your eyes: Give your eyes ample rest by avoiding screens and bright lights. Close your eyes periodically to alleviate strain.  

  • Use eye drops: Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can provide relief from dryness and discomfort. However, avoid using drops that claim to "reduce redness," as they may contain ingredients that worsen symptoms.  

  • Protect your eyes in the future: Learn from the experience and prioritize eye safety during future celestial events. Invest in certified solar viewing glasses or use indirect viewing methods to observe eclipses safely. For more information visit Eclipse Viewing Safety (nasa.gov)


Conclusion

  

While witnessing a solar eclipse is a mesmerizing experience, it's essential to prioritize eye safety to avoid potential damage. If you're experiencing eye pain or discomfort after watching an eclipse, don't ignore the symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention to assess any potential damage and prevent further complications. Remember, protecting your eyes today ensures clear vision for a lifetime of celestial wonders tomorrow. 


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The North Shore Public Health Collaborative (NSPHC) is a regional partnership involving eight municipalities: Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, Marblehead, Nahant, Peabody, Salem, and Swampscott.

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