Science and Tech


Looking at an eclipse without special glasses can damage your eyes

Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can burn your retina and damage your vision in a matter of seconds.
Posted at 7:47 PM, Apr 08, 2024

Did you look at the solar eclipse without special glasses? You could be at risk of eclipse retinopathy, or solar retinopathy. Those are terms for what occurs when a person damages their eyes while looking at the sun during an eclipse, and it can cause permanent damage if a person’s eyes aren’t fully protected.

Your retina is a thin tissue in the back of your eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain. With the sun, the front part of your eye called the lens essentially works like a magnifying glass. That can burn the retina and essentially lead to a hole in your vision, and that can happen in a matter of seconds. It can take hours or days to show symptoms. Those can include sore eyes, blurry vision or seeing distorted shapes, colors or sizes of things. Headaches are common too.  

There's no treatment for solar retinopathy. Over time, the body has the potential to heal itself somewhat, but the damage can be permanent. If you do start to have symptoms, it's important to see an eye doctor as soon as you can. They will be able to do imaging of the retina to see how bad the damage is.

Solar eclipse sparks waves of excitement across North America
The Statue of Freedom on top of the U.S. Capitol stands as the moon partially covers the sun during a total solar eclipse.

Solar eclipse sparks waves of excitement across North America

Even the states and cities that were not in the solar eclipse's path of totality took in the spectacle from their partial points of view.