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Solar Retinopathy

Updated on February 6, 2015

The eye

The eyes are one of the most important sense organs that any organism has. It allows people to be visually aware of our surroundings.

Eyes are the parts of our body that perceive light. They allow us to see the world and to understand how objects relate to each other and help us co-ordinate with the rest of the world perfectly. They are also very important in co-ordination of our movement.


The retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina. This image stimulates the retina which sends impulses that travel through the optic nerve to the brain. There is a small area, called the macula, in the retina that contains special light-sensitive cells. The macula allows us to see fine details clearly.

Retinopathy is damage to the retina due to a number of causes that range from Diabetes, Hypertension, trauma or even sun gazing. For this hub, I will focus on damage by light (Solar).

Solar Retinopathy

The main causes of Solar Retinopathy include

  1. Sun gazing
  2. Snow reflection
  3. Staring at Solar eclipses
  4. Prolonged darkness then sudden normal light

This is the dark side of look at the sun. The damage is usually thought to be "burning" of the retina, but it is actually due to photochemical injury rather than thermal injury. Usually there are natural reflexes that cause the eyes to blink, but this can be diminished, during sun gazing, because of religious activities or when under the influence of mind-altering drugs. There are a number of sun gazing rituals that are practiced, but none of them are advised or advocated due their detrimental outcomes, which includes blindness.

During a solar eclipse, even though most of the sun is blocked out there are still some dangerous UV rays that get through. There are special ways to view eclipses, through pinhole boxes and other methods.

All in all, you should never look at the sun!!!

The final cause was suggested in a current situation, when miners from Chile were trapped in a mine for 69 days. When they were rescued the miners came out with dark sunglasses in order to protect them from this type of retinopathy.

Symptoms and signs

Unfortunately, the damage from solar retinopathy can occur without any pain and the visual effects can only be noticed a few hours after the damage has been done.

  • Blind spot in the centre of your vision
  • Have difficulty discerning shapes
  • Eyes begin to water
  • Photophobia (Uncomfortable in bright places)
  • Objects look distorted

If you experience any of these symptoms after looking at the sun, see your, optometrist or another medical practitioner as soon as possible.

Vision loss due to solar retinopathy usually reversible, lasting for as short as one month to over one year or it may be permanent.

The retinal changes are variable and usually in both eyes, mild cases often show no alteration and moderate to severe cases show a foveal yellow spot on the first days after exposure.

Pin hole Box

Other safe ways to look at an eclipse

  • The best thing to do of course is not look
  • Watch it on TV
  • And the above pinhole box

Also being in an environment that can reflect the sun's rays can be dangerous without the proper protection. This is obvious when you go skiing or go to beautiful white sand beaches. You automatically find yourself squinting, due to the reflection.

Hence the reason why skiers and beach goers wearing spiffy sunglasses

Next Eclipse Near you

Check out

  1. Mr Eclipse

Have you ever looked directly at an eclipse?

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