Eye doctors treat few eclipse cases
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.