5 Things You Need to Know About Solar Retinopathy

The retina is a tissue in the back of your eye that is responsible for transmitting light and images to your brain. Lights that are too bright, like the sun or UV lights, can damage the retina, causing solar retinopathy. Here's what you need to know about this serious eye injury.

What causes solar retinopathy?

Solar retinopathy occurs when you stare at a bright light. Here are a few possible ways that this can happen:

  • Looking at a solar eclipse without using proper safety precautions
  • Using tanning beds without eye protection
  • Spending time outdoors without sunglasses
  • Arc welding without eye protection
  • Having a laser pointer aimed at your eye

What are the signs of solar retinopathy?

The symptoms of this injury develop as soon as an hour after the exposure. The severity of the symptoms varies based on how much light the retina was exposed to. If you have solar retinopathy, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Colors look different
  • Black spots in your vision

If you are current experiencing these symptoms, contact an optometrist for additional info.

Is the damage reversible?

There are no treatments for this injury, but fortunately, they aren't usually needed. Often, the retina is able to heal itself. Studies have shown that about 80% of people with solar retinopathy will gradually find that their vision returns to 20/40 or better.

How common is solar retinopathy?

No one is sure how many people are affected by solar retinopathy since there haven't been any studies done to estimate the number of people with this injury. Also, optometrists think that most people don't seek treatment for this injury since the symptoms can be mild or vague, like a headache or watery eyes.

How can you keep your eyes safe?

Wearing proper eye protection is the best and easiest way to keep your eyes safe from the sun and other bright lights. Always wear sunglasses when you're outside, and wear eye shields if you choose to use indoor tanning beds. If there is a solar eclipse in your area, don't look at it directly. View the eclipse through a pinhole projector or watch a live video of the eclipse on television.

Solar retinopathy is an eye injury that happens after your retina is exposed to a very bright light. The only treatment for this injury is prevention, so make sure to always protect your eyes if you are going to be exposed to sunlight or other bright lights.