The total solar eclipse in August came with a well-publicized warning: Whatever you do, do not look at the sun without protective goggles.
What received less publicity, according to Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, was how to choose the right protective eyewear, and that knowledge gap has fueled a case study of the assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai , published in JAMA Ophthalmology on Thursday.
In the case study, Deobhakta and his colleagues describe the plight of a 20-something woman who saw the eclipse through what turned out to be defective glasses. Four hours after watching the sun for about six seconds without glasses, and then approximately 15 to 20 seconds with glasses, he began to experience distortions of color and vision, as well as blurred vision, especially in the left eye. He could also see a "central black spot" with his left eye.
When they arrived at Mount Sinai's New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) for treatment, doctors used adaptive optics to see detailed images of the cells that make up the photoreceptor layer of the retina, the part of the eye that turns the light in electrical energy that the brain can interpret. The technology allowed them to analyze their sun-related damage, called solar retinopathy, in extremely granular detail, says Deobhakta. They discovered that the eclipse had apparently burned a growing shape in the woman's retina.
"We could really classify how the photoreceptors were damaged to the point where they literally looked almost like a shadow of the eclipse crescent in the photoreceptor area," Deobhakta explains. "What the layman would think would happen actually happened, and it has been demonstrated by very, very precise technology."
When asked to draw what she sees through the affected eye (photo above), the woman corroborated the researchers' findings by outlining what "looks like Pac-Man," says Deobhakta. eclipse, its symptoms persisted.
The woman who was profiled in the case study was one of the 22 people who visited NYEE complaining about eclipse-related damage, of which only three had structural eye problems, and only the woman described in the article had a solar retinopathy severe enough to be included in the study, even so, Deobhakta says that the opportunity to study the condition in such detail was an unprecedented opportunity.
"Normally, we do not have eclipses, and when we do, [we don’t usually have] patients who observe the eclipse and then report to an eye hospital with technology that can adequately evaluate it. At least in the New York area, there has not been an eclipse since we developed this technology, "he says." All those things that happen at the same time are very rare. "
The confluence of factors left one thing clear as a crystal, Deobhakta says: Before the next total eclipse, in seven years from now, we will need a better education about eclipse glasses.