Solar retinopathy


Solar retinopathy, or short-term damage to the eyes, occurs when too much ultra-violet light has penetrated the retina when a person has stared at the sun for several minutes. Although it is difficult to quantify the length of time it takes for damage to occur due to variants, it is estimated that in clear conditions, this damage can occur in approximately 100 seconds or just over 1 ½ minutes. Wearing sunglasses in this instance will not protect the eyes because the sunglasses will allow the person to stare at the sun more comfortably as well as dilate the pupils, allowing more UV lights to negatively effect the retina. The only way to prevent these short-term effects is to not look directly into the sun. In extreme cases, this can cause blindness. However, one would have to stare at the sun for a significantly longer period of time which would be excruciatingly painful and difficult to maintain the stare. Although a rare occurrence, it can and has happened.

Long-term sun damage caused by the effects of UV rays include cataracts, corneal sunburn, or growths on the surface of the eye.  This damage occurs little by little over time. The only way to prevent long-term damage is to wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection whenever you go outdoors. These protections will not allow these harmful UV rays to penetrate the retina, maintaining the health of your eyes. Likewise, children should also wear sunglasses outdoors to protect their vision as well.

During the solar eclipse on August 27, 2017, it is recommended that you use ISO-certified filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers. Viewing the eclipse with the naked eye for a relatively short period of time could cause the equivalent of a sunburn on the surface of your eye, causing redness, discomfort, and the feeling of a foreign body in your eye. Looking into the eclipse longer can cause significantly more damage which could be permanent.

If you feel your eyes have suffered damage from the sun, to make an appointment at West Side Eye Clinic, you can reach us at (504) 347-8434. For more information, you can submit a request at We are located at 4601 Wichers Drive in Marrero and are at your service Monday through Wednesday from 9am – 5pm; Thursday and Friday from 9am – 4pm; and by appointment only on Saturday. Your complete eye health is our top priority!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.