Eye doc­tors treat few eclipse cases

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Shari Ru­davsky

The dire and wide­spread warn­ings about look­ing into the sun dur­ing the so­lar eclipse Aug. 21 warded off all but a few pass­ing prob­lems for peo­ple’s eye­sight, doc­tors said.

In the days af­ter the eclipse — 91% of the sun was ob­scured at its peak here — Raj Ma­turi, an oph­thal­mol­o­gist with the Mid­west Eye In­sti­tute in the In­di­anapo­lis area, and his col­leagues saw two pa­tients with eclipse-re­lated prob­lems.

The most com­mon ef­fect? Ghost images, in which pa­tients see a bright spot in the mid­dle of their vis­ual field.

Ma­turi be­longs to two na­tional doc­tor groups that have tracked eye prob­lems from the eclipse. One Cal­i­for­nia man suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant vi­sion loss be­cause the glasses he bought were fake.

“The dam­age to his retina was in the shape of an eclipse,” said Ma­turi, who didn’t of­fer de­tails about where the man viewed the phe­nom­e­non or how long he looked at the sun.

In In­di­anapo­lis, oph­thal­mol­o­gists saw pa­tients who looked at the sun with their naked eyes for a few sec­onds as they put on or took off eclipse glasses. Their ex­po­sure did not last long enough to do per­ma­nent dam­age. Anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs and time helped those pa­tients re­turn to nor­mal in a few days, Ma­turi said.

Had they looked longer, their prob­lems prob­a­bly would have been more ex­ten­sive. “The cells are in the mid­dle of a shock from so much en­ergy com­ing to the eye,” Ma­turi said. “Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no treat­ment that works. If you’re lit­er­ally burn­ing some­thing, it’s im­pos­si­ble to bring it back to life.”

Some pa­tients called the Eugene and Mar­i­lyn Glick Eye In­sti­tute at the In­di­ana Univer­sity School of Medicine con­cerned be­cause they had glanced up when the sun was cov­ered with a cloud, said Louis Can­tor, chair­man of the depart­ment of oph­thal­mol­ogy. Oth­ers were wor­ried about pets out­side dur­ing the time.

“There were a lot of mis­con­cep­tions about it,” he said. “Just be­ing out­side is not an is­sue. It’s star­ing at the sun. ... Look­ing at an eclipse is no dif­fer­ent than look­ing at the sun on a non-eclipse day.”

On a nor­mal sunny day, peo­ple have lit­tle rea­son to go through the dis­com­fort of star­ing at a ball of hot gas. The only safe way to look at the sun — dur­ing an eclipse or any other time — is through spe­cial glasses that ren­der the rest of the world in­vis­i­ble.

Pres­i­dent Trump stared for a mo­ment at the sun dur­ing the eclipse in Wash­ing­ton.

The White House has not said whether he suf­fered any vi­sion changes.

The age of his eyes may have of­fered a mod­icum of pro­tec­tion, Ma­turi said.

“The eyes of younger peo­ple tend to have clearer lenses, while their grand­par­ents’ eyes may have cloudier lenses,” he said. “That may block the glare a tad but doesn’t of­fer any­where near full pro­tec­tion.”


Pres­i­dent Trump glances at the so­lar eclipse Aug. 21 with­out pro­tec­tive glasses.

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