So I Stared at the Sun During the Eclipse, Now What?

Woman with sensitive eyes | Image by RealPeopleGroup/Getty Images

Internet search trends suggest some people may have woken up Tuesday with potential eye damage after viewing Monday’s total solar eclipse.

Millions across North Texas and beyond turned their eyes skyward to watch the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. However, those who did so with their bare eyes or non-ISO-certified glasses could be experiencing some symptoms of eye damage. Google Trends, which analyzes user searches, found that inquiries such as “Why do my eyes hurt?” and “My eyes hurt” spiked considerably following the eclipse.

“Damage from the solar eclipse could happen to the retina in seconds,” Dr. Yehia Hashad, an ophthalmologist, retinal specialist, and the chief medical officer of the eye health company Bausch + Lomb, told CBS News.

“That’s why we don’t want people to stare even for a short period of time — even if for a few seconds to the direct sun — whether eclipsed or even partially eclipsed,” he added.

Contrary to what some might think, eye damage does not manifest as pain unless it impacts the cornea. While damage to a person’s cornea might eventually heal, damage done to the retina will likely not. This condition is called solar retinopathy and it can occur by staring at the sun — whether during an eclipse or not.

“A very small dose could cause harm to some people,” he said. “That’s why we say the partial eclipse could also be damaging. And that’s why we protect our eyes with the partial as well as with the full sun.”

Cynthia Beauchamp, a local pediatric ophthalmologist, likened it to a sunburn on the eyes with potentially grave consequences for one’s vision.

“Sometimes [visual impairment] improves, but unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t,” she told NBC 5 DFW.

Some symptoms to watch out for include watery eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, eye pain, and color distortion, per Cleveland Clinic. Any kind of visual distortion — such as a dark spot or straight lines appearing rounded — should also be taken seriously.

As Hashad shared with CBS, symptoms may impact just one or both eyes. Either way, he stressed the importance of seeking an ophthalmologist’s help immediately.

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