CT optometrist explains how eclipse could cause eye damage


The Great American Eclipse of 2017 had thousands of people looking up at the sun and if any of them didn’t wear the proper protection it could have done some serious damage to their eyes.

Eyewitness News spoke with an optometrist in Connecticut on Tuesday and got a look at just how dangerous staring at the sun can be for a person’s eyes.

If a person looked at that sun during an extended period of time during the eclipse without the proper protection, that person may not notice the damage right away, but it could have a long lasting effect.

The lines were out the door of Dr. Michael Shea’s office in Torrington to get a pair of 500 free protective glasses for the big eclipse. But for those that didn't have a pair.

"Our biggest fear as eye doctors is having people come in saying they looked in at the Eclipse without glasses and there's damage in their eyes,” Shea said. “And it takes about 24 hours for damage in the eyes to show up in terms of what's called solar retinopathy."

Shea said a quick glance at the sun isn't going to cause any real permanent damage, but if it's prolonged.

If you think of holding a magnifying glass over a piece of paper you can burn the paper,” Shea said. “Essentially there's a lens inside your eye that focuses the light very similar to that magnifying glass and what it can do is physically burn the retina."

There's no immediate pain, it just damages the tissue leading to permanent vision loss. Shea showed Eyewitness News an example of a patient he had in the past that had damage from looking at the sun.

“This right here this dark area right here is actually fluid that's actually leaked underneath the retina in response to the burn,” Shea said.

Optometrists have reported seeing the impact on older generations that did not have protective eyewear for the solar eclipse in the past.

“It can really cause permanent damage you know the part of the eye that it affects is the center retina so it can cause what's called a central scotoma or a blind spot right in the center,” Shea said.

If a person is worried about their vision, they were advised to take a trip to the eye doctor. The eye doctor should be able to tell very quickly whether it had anything to do with the great American Eclipse of 2017.

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