An image taken from the woman's left retina shows damage in the center. Reproduced with permission from JAMA Ophthalmology. 2017. doi: 10.1001 / jamaophthalmol.2017.5517.
Credit: Copyright © (2017) American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
Using a new type of image, doctors could look into the eyes of a young woman and see, at the cellular level, the type of damage that occurs when looking directly at the sun during an eclipse.
The woman, who is over 20 years old, damaged her eyes during the total solar eclipse on August 21, according to a new report of her case, published today (December 7) in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
In the case of the woman, she told the doctors that during the eclipse, she looked at the sun for approximately 6 seconds several times without protection and, again, from 15 to 20 seconds with a pair of glasses to eclipse, according to the case report. She also said that she saw the solar eclipse with both eyes open. [Did the Solar Eclipse Damage Your Eyes? Here’s How to Tell]
But the woman was not in the path of totality during the eclipse (during the whole it is safe to look at the sun without eye protection), and the sun was only 70 percent darkened during the peak of the Eclipse in the area that the woman saw the event. That meant that the bright sunlight was still visible and damaging to the eyes.
Four hours after seeing the eclipse, the woman said that she had blurred vision, a type of distorted vision called metamorphopsia and color distortion. The symptoms were worse in his left eye, in which he also reported seeing a central black spot, according to the report.
However, it was not until three days after he went to the doctor, who discovered he had a condition called solar retinopathy, a rare form of retinal injury that results from direct sunstroke, the report says.
Look in the eyes
Because total solar eclipses are rare, doctors usually do not see patients with solar retinopathy, and when they have done so in the past, they did not have the same imaging tools available to use .
"We have never seen the cell damage of an eclipse because this event rarely occurs and we have not had this type of advanced technology to examine solar retinopathy until recently," said lead author Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, professor assistant ophthalmologist at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, in a statement.
The new technology, called adaptive optics, allows doctors and researchers "to get an accurate picture of this retinal damage at such a precise level [which] will help doctors better understand the condition."
Solar retinopathy occurs when the bright light from the sun damages the retina, causing blurred vision or a blind spot in one or both eyes. However, the damage is often painless and a person will not usually experience these symptoms immediately after looking directly into the intense sunlight.
After examining the woman, the doctors determined that she had burns on both retinas. She also had photochemical burns on her eyes, according to the report.
Adaptive optics allows doctors to examine the microscopic structures of a patient's eye with extreme details in real time, according to the report. Using the technique, the researchers obtained high-resolution images of the damaged photoreceptors in the woman's eyes. (Photoreceptors are the light-sensitive rods and cones of the retina of the eye.)
The images showed no significant damage to the vision of the right eye, but revealed a yellow-white spot in the left eye. The images also showed multiple areas of decreased sensitivity and a central scotoma, or blind spot, in the left eye, according to the report.
The researchers said in the statement that they hope the images will help provide a better understanding of solar retinopathy. , which currently can not be treated.
In addition, the report "can prepare doctors and patients for the next eclipse in 2024 and make them more informed about the risks of seeing the sun directly without protective goggles", lead author Dr. Chris Wu, a resident nursing physician of eyes and ears of Mount Sinai New York, said in the statement.
Originally published in Live Science.