Solar Eclipse Damage to Woman's Eye Revealed in Striking Images

Maricruz Casares
Diciembre 8, 2017

Scientists have used adaptive optics to examine cellular damage in the eye from a "total" solar eclipse in the United States in August.

The woman, who is in her 20s, damaged her eyes during the total solar eclipse on August 21, according to a new report of her case, published today (Dec. 7) in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers used the technology on a patient who looked at the sun without protective eyewear for 21 seconds during the solar eclipse. She reports looking at the eclipse with both eyes open.

Adaptive optics image of Nia Payne's retina. (JAMA Ophthalmology  New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai  Washington Post0
Adaptive optics image of Nia Payne's retina. (JAMA Ophthalmology New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Washington Post0

But the woman was not in the path of totality during the eclipse (during totality it is safe to look at the sun without eye protection), and the sun was only 70 percent obscured during the peak of the eclipse in the area that the woman viewed the event.

Four hours after watching the eclipse, the woman said she had blurred vision, a type of distorted vision called metamorphopsia, and color distortion. What they found is that her eye had been damaged in a precise crescent shape that matched the semi-visible sun she'd been staring at. She also reported seeing a central black spot in the left eye.

Close-ups of her damaged eye tissue-reportedly the most detailed of their kind-were published online Thursday in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology by solar retinopathy specialist Avnish Deobhakta and his colleagues at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

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