A local optometrist says with all of the hype surrounding the solar eclipse Aug. 21, she hopes viewers followed proper precautions and didn’t take unnecessary risks with their vision. But, she says, that hype probably also created some paranoia about permanent eye damage from staring at the sun.
“I suspect that I’ll get a lot of people that are concerned that they did,” said Sara Mach, an optometrist at Clarkson Eyecare’s 8821 Ladue Rd. location. “And I would guess down the road I might see someone that did … but you know, if you look at the partial eclipse for just a few seconds, I don’t think that it’s for certain you’re going to get permanent damage … I’m sure there are a lot of people who are going to be anxious that maybe they did though.”
Officials are reporting that it’s the most viewed eclipse in history, with millions watching it live and millions more watching it online. The partial eclipse was visible in all 50 states and 14 states were in the path of totality. That, mixed with a run on viewing glasses, means lots of folks (like President Trump) might have snuck a quick look at the crescent sun.
If you did damage your eyes, it takes at least 12 hours before anyone can tell, and medical experts say glancing at the sun for a fraction of a second without a protective filter, chances of eye damage are very low.
However, Mach says a solar burn to the eye is permanent.
“Any sort of scar tissue is not going to go away.”
Symptoms of damage to the eye after viewing the eclipse include: blurred vision, a spot, or multiple spots where vision is very blurred. The spots can clear up over time, but about half the time, it’s permanent.
More than 12 million people live in the 70-mile-wide path of totality from South Carolina to Oregon; several million more traveled into the path.
With that many viewers, it’s inevitable that optometrists and eye care businesses will likely get flooded with calls this week.
It’s important to remember that your eyes and vision might have been temporarily affected just by looking through the filtered lenses for a long time. That’s because certain photo receptors in the eye worked harder than others, and it might have felt strange as those overloaded receptors returned to normal.