PICKENS COUNTY — If you heard it once, you heard it a thousand times: Do not look at the sun without wearing protective solar glasses.
Still, as reports of defective glasses circulated the area and recalls were announced, many people were left wondering if their eyes were indeed safe.
According to the Vision Eye Institute, light enters the opening at the front of the eye (the pupil) and is then focused through the lens onto the retina at the back of the eye.
There are three kinds of light – visible, infrared and ultraviolet (UV).
UV rays in particular can cause damage to the structure of the eye and when over–exposed, the radiation literally cooks the exposed tissue, destroying the rods and cones of the retina and creating a small blind area, the institute asserts.
Similar damage can be caused by other intense lights such as a welder’s torch — which is why welders wear highly protective goggles when they are working, they said.
When damage to the retina is caused by the sun’s electromagnetic solar radiation, it is a condition known as solar retinopathy.
Solar retinopathy can be tricky because the damage from the sun can occur without feeling any pain. Worse, those afflicted may not present symptoms until hours — even days — later, the Centers for Disease Control warns.
So, how can you tell? There are some symptoms that are commonly noted when making a diagnosis including eyes beginning to water and feeling sore, feeling discomfort looking at bright lights and having difficulty discerning shapes (especially detailed objects.)
In addition, objects can look distorted or there may be a blind spot in the center of your vision.
Health practitioners warn anyone who experiences any of these symptoms to see their eye doctor.
Unfortunately, if you do have it, there’s not a whole lot that can be done: solar retinopathy can be permanent — and untreatable with anything except time.
The CDC states recovery from solar retinopathy can take from around a month to twelve months, depending on the extent of the damage caused by the exposure to UV rays. If the damage is more severe and extends to the macula, then there may be permanent loss of vision.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.