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How to tell if you have eye damage after staring at the eclipse


Monday’s solar eclipse had all eyes on the sky – but if you weren’t wearing proper protection you might need to get your eyes checked.

According to Google Trends, there was a noticeable spike in people asking about eye damage after the solar eclipse.

The School of Optometry at the University of Waterloo said they got a handful of calls for last-minute eye test appointments after Monday’s celestial event.

Dr. Sarah MacIver, a clinical associate professor at the school, said staring at the sun is never a good idea. During an eclipse, it’s even more dangerous.

“If it's darker out, the eye dilates and it doesn't have that natural constriction. So more light rays come in, which will then increase the chances of having that damage happen to either the front of the eye or the back of the eye,” she explained.

Eye damage

Maclver said an “eye sunburn” is easy to diagnose.

“If they're noticing any discomfort or any redness, any irritation, any light sensitivity,” she explained, adding that it usually resolves itself, or goes away, after the patient uses artificial tears.

More serious damage can, however, happen to the back of the eye.

“The UV light can damage the photoreceptor layer of the retina that translates all of the light to visual information in the brain,” Maclver said.

If you notice vision loss, she recommends seeing an eye doctor right away for a retinal scan. 

“When that retinal imaging is done, we can take a look at it live as we're doing it and be able to identify any damage right away,” she said.

The School of Optometry offers same-day appointments if you’re worried about eye damage after the solar eclipse.

In most cases, it would be noticeable in the days following sun exposure.

Retinal damage could lead to permanent vision loss but it is unlikely you’d go completely blind, experts say.

Wearing proper glasses

Maclver said you should be protected if you were wearing the right glasses during the solar eclipse – those that met the safety standards and were from a reputable retailer.

The proper glasses would have ISO 12312 – 2 written on them, to show they have the correct filter to protect the eyes.

Bernard Carrara from Kitchener went to the School of Optometry on Wednesday for his annual eye test. He said he and his family watched the eclipse with the proper glasses on, just south of London.

“It was super. Especially when it got to the corona. We were in an area where they had the full eclipse,” he said.

Carrara added that he’s grateful he’s still seeing 20/20.

“We had no problems,” he said. “We knew the rules.” Top Stories

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