Did you enjoy watching the Great American Eclipse of 2017? Hopefully you used solar eclipse glasses to keep your eyes safe. If you didn't, or if you used something other than proper eclipse glasses, you may be among the many people Googling possible eclipse-related eye damage:
Everyone's googling "my eyes hurt" today pic.twitter.com/KJ0S5je7sX— Gene Park (@GenePark) August 21, 2017
Fortunately, according to the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, eye injuries from watching the eclipse are pretty rare. However, an injury called solar retinopathy can happen if you watch an eclipse with the naked eye, even if the eclipse is partial and even if there's just a sliver of sun showing.
Ralph Chou, an optometrist and vision scientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told NPR that because of the way the light exposure damages cells of the retina, you may not realize there's a problem until about 12 hours later.
"[The symptoms would be] blurred vision, where the very center of the vision might have a spot, or multiple spots, that were missing in their vision — that were very, very blurred. Around it, there might be some clear spots. It really depends on exactly what happened, and what kind of injury there is at the back of the eye," Chou said.
If you're worried about damage, make an appointment with an optometrist. If there's damage, the eye doctor may refer you to an ophthalmologist.
Staying indoors or wearing sunglasses won't reverse the damage but may help you feel more comfortable while your eyes recover, which can take anywhere from a few days to several months. A study on solar retinopathy found that six months was the average, though the researchers noted that some patients suffered more permanent damage.