The Aftermath of The Solar Eclipse

What is Solar Retinopathy?
The name given to eye damage which has been caused by looking directly at the sun is solar retinopathy. The recent eclipse has brought attention the harmful effects of viewing the sun without proper viewing devices.

Your eye has an opening at the front (pupil) and a lens which adjusts to focus images you are looking at onto the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is made up of delicate tissue that is sensitive to light. Solar retinopathy occurs when the harmful radiation from the sun reaches the eye and is concentrated by the lens onto the retina. This burns the retina and destroys the cells that enable you to see.

How do I know if I have solar retinopathy?
As there are no pain-sensing nerves in the retina you will not feel any pain while the damage is being caused. Some hours after the event you may experience the following symptoms:

  • eyes may become watery and sore
  • difficulty in seeing shape and detail of objects
  • discomfort with bright light
  • a blind spot in your central vision
  • things may appear to be unusually coloured
  • objects may be distorted in shape

What do I do now?
In the first instance, go to your local optometrist, the eye specialist found in the high street optician’s shop. Unfortunately, there are no treatments currently available, however the optometrist will be able to advise you on the extent of your particular eye damage and assess and monitor your condition. The optometrist can also refer you on to other specialists if necessary. Alternatively, visit your physicians office to get proper referral of care.

Is the damage permanent?
If the damage is mild, your eyesight may return to normal after a time when the swelling at the back of the eye is reduced. The length of time varies with each individual and the extent of the damage. The eye specialist will advise you on how to reduce the discomfort while the swelling goes down.

Unfortunately, if the damage is more severe, your eyesight may be permanently affected. It is only through monitoring of your sight over a period of weeks that the eye specialist will be able to assess the extent of the long-term damage.

What if my sight cannot be fully restored?
If your sight has been permanently affected, much can be done to help you adjust and use your remaining vision as fully as possible. Services on offer vary in different areas and you should ask your eye specialist to discuss the available options with you.

We hope that you enjoyed viewing the recent solar eclipse. If you, or anyone you know has any symptoms of solar retinopathy from improper viewing, please encourage them to see an eye doctor as soon as possible.

Safely View the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Did you know that the 2017 solar eclipse will take place on August 21?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth. The area of the Earth shaded by the outer shadow of the moon (penumbra) experiences a partial eclipse; the area shaded by the central shadow (umbra) experiences a total eclipse.

From beginning to end, the eclipse will be visible for about two and a half to three hours, depending on where in the U.S. you are viewing the phenomenon. The maximum level of the eclipse (“totality”), however, lasts only a minute or two.

On the West Coast, the 2017 solar eclipse will begin around 9:06 AM and end around 11:41 AM (Pacific time). On the East Coast, it will begin around 1:03 PM and conclude around 4:06 PM (Eastern time).

Solar Eclipse Glasses: Do They Really Protect Your Eyes?
Solar eclipse glasses are inexpensive, very dark filters with cardboard or paper frames that are designed to protect your eyes from retina damage when viewing an eclipse.

But do they really work?
Staring at a solar eclipse (or staring at the sun at any time) can cause a burned retina — called solar retinopathy or solar maculopathy — that can cause permanent vision loss. So having adequate eye protection when viewing a solar eclipse is extremely important.

Most “eclipse glasses” do offer adequate protection from the sun’s potentially damaging UV rays when viewing a solar eclipse. Look for documentation somewhere on the disposable glasses that says the eclipse shades are certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for safe direct viewing of the sun.

But unfortunately, according to the National Science Foundation’s American Astronomical Society (AAS), excitement about the 2017 solar eclipse has caused the marketplace to become flooded with counterfeit eclipse glasses that say they are ISO-certified when in fact they are not.

Because it is impossible to tell if eclipse glasses truly meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard (sometimes written as ISO 12312-2:2015) by simply looking at them, the AAS created a Solar Eclipse Task Force that has compiled a list of reputable manufacturers and retailers of certified eclipse glasses.

Sunglasses Are Not Enough
Sunglasses don’t provide adequate eye protection during the course of a solar eclipse.

Regular sunglasses, polarized sunglasses or photochromic lenses do not offer adequate eye protection when watching a solar eclipse.

Though these lenses provide 100 percent UV protection during general wearing conditions, the special-purpose solar filters used in genuine eclipse glasses are thousands of times darker than ordinary sunglasses to protect the eyes from the intense visible sunlight that can cause a serious retinal injury or even blindness when viewing the sun directly.

When Is The Next Solar Eclipse?
If you miss the 2017 solar eclipse, you’ll have to wait awhile to see another one in the United States. The next total solar eclipse to cross North America will take place on April 8, 2024.

ISO certified eclipse glasses are available for purchase in our office while supplies last. HAPPY VIEWING!

The Effects of Smoking on Your Eyes

Sure, you know that lighting up a cigarette is never healthy — but did you know that smoking even damages eye health?

Cigarette smoke is extremely toxic, containing as many as 4,000 active compounds, including tar, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals. Its effects on the lungs and heart have been well established by medical researchers and are well known.

Not as well known are the detrimental effects that smoking can have on your vision. Smoking has been directly linked to two of the leading causes of vision loss, cataracts and macular degeneration. In fact, researchers believe smoking also causes or contributes to a number of other eye health problems.

The Link Between Smoking and Cataracts
Research has found that smokers have double the risk of developing cataracts compared with non-smokers. This risk is triple for heavy smokers. In fact, doctors have discovered a specific relationship between cataracts and the amount that you smoke — the more you smoke, the more chance you have of developing cataracts.

Cataracts occur when the eye’s naturally clear lens grows cloudy over time. This age-related condition causes blurry vision, faded colors, and increased sensitivity to glare. For some people, having cataracts is like trying to see through a waterfall.

Doctors believe smoking contributes to cataracts by altering the cells of the lens through oxidation. There is also evidence that smoking leads to the accumulation of heavy metals like cadmium in the lens.

Smoking and Macular Degeneration: What’s the Connection?
Smoking also increases a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration. Studies have found that smokers face a risk of developing macular degeneration that is two to four times greater than that of people who have never smoked. As with cataracts, doctors have found that the risk increases the more a person has smoked. Researchers have also found an increased risk of macular degeneration in people who don’t smoke but are frequently exposed to environmental cigarette smoke.

Macular degeneration involves the deterioration of the macula, the central part of the retina that allows us to perceive fine details. As the macula wears out, people experience blurriness, distortions, or blind spots in their central vision.

Doctors believe that smoking promotes macular degeneration by interfering with blood flow to the retina. Smoking might also increase the deleterious effects of oxidation on the cells of the macula.

Other Eye Health Problems Related to Smoking
Studies also have linked cigarette smoking to eye problems such as:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Dry eyes
  • Optic nerve damage
  • Lazy eye
  • Conjunctivitis

Vision Problems and Smoking: What You Can Do
There is hope for smokers who want to avoid smoking-related vision loss. Research has found that quitting smoking does improve their chances of avoiding eye disease. For example, studies show that people who quit smoking will have a 6.7 percent reduced risk of developing macular degeneration after one year. After five years, the risk drops by another 5 percent.

The same goes for cataracts. The eyes can heal from the damage done by cigarette smoking, although very slowly. Doctors say people who have quit smoking for 25 years have a 20 percent lower risk of cataracts when compared with current smokers.

One of the safest things to do for your vision? Never start smoking at all. Ex-smokers still have an increased risk of vision loss from cataracts or macular degeneration when compared with people who have never lit up a cigarette.

Routine, comprehensive eye exams will help monitor and prevent the effects of smoking on your eyes. Make an appointment today!