Solar Eclipse Can Damage Your Eyes and Irreversibly Hurt Vision
Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Staring at Solar Eclipse Can Damage Your Eyes, Loyola Ophthalmologist Warns

Solar eclipse

MAYWOOD, IL – On Monday, August 21, residents of North America will be treated to a total solar eclipse – the first time the contiguous U.S. will witness a total solar eclipse since 1979.

While the desire may be to stand outside and stare at the rare celestial event, Loyola Medicine ophthalmologist and retina specialist Manthan Shah, MD, warns of the serious potential for permanent damage to the retinas if done improperly.

"The main concern is solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye when staring directly at the sun," Dr. Shah said. "Looking directly at a solar eclipse is the most common cause of solar retinopathy. The radiation from the sun is so concentrated it damages the retina."

  • While those who experience solar retinopathy don't feel pain from the exposure, they can experience:
  • Difficulty seeing shapes and details of objects
  • Discomfort with bright light
  • A blind spot in your central vision

"In the immediate aftermath, it causes a central visual disturbance," Dr. Shah said. "Most people recover from that, but some can be left with central scotomas (blind spot) and sometimes have permanently decreased visual acuity."

The American Academy of Ophthalmology said it is safe to look at the eclipse when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s face, but viewing even a little of the sun peeking out from behind the moon is enough to cause irreversible damage to your vision. They recommend only viewing the eclipse with specialized eclipse glasses. Normal sunglasses do not protect the eye.

"While the solar eclipse is a rare event to experience, it's best to make sure you view it safely," Dr. Shah said. "Retina damage is a serious consequence."

For more information about the solar eclipse and eye safety, Dr. Shah recommends visiting the resources provided by NASA.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.