Baltimore Eye Doctor on Solar Retinopathy

Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baltimore Eye Doctor on Solar Retinopathy

Dr. Shari Strier, an eye doctor at Baltimore Washington Eye Center, shared interesting insights into solar retinopathy and sun damage to the eyes and retina. “Recently we have had two rather spectacular and rather rare astronomical events grace the skies over North America. On May 20th there was annular solar eclipse. The moon passed in between earth and the sun blocking all but a peripheral ring of the sun's rays creating an effect known as a “ring of fire". The second remarkable event occurred on June 5th when the planet Venus could be seen as a small black disc passing across the face of the sun. This Venus transit was the second in a pair (the first of which occurred in 2004) that will be observable this century. The next pair of transits will not occur until 2117. Fantastic events such as these, especially when we know they will not occur again in our lifetime often pull our gaze skyward. But looking directly at the sun even when it is eclipsed can cause immediate and permanent damage to your vision,” shared Dr. Strier. 

Solar retinopathy occurs when people look directly or indirectly at the sun. The damage to the retina occurs first in the pigment layer that supports the seeing cells of the eye. Then damage to these photoreceptors (rods and cones) will occur and finally a retinal hole may develop. Symptoms include decreased vision, distortion of vision and blind spots. There are no effective treatments for solar retinopathy and although in many patients the visual acuity may return to baseline with time, scarring and macular holes can cause permanent vision loss. 

How can we take advantage of the wonderful spectacle in the heavens without risking our vision? First let me say sunglasses will not protect your eyes in this kind of situation. Commercially available Eclipse shades or Solar shades look like a cross between sunglasses and the glasses worn to see 3-D movies but have a filter that permits safe viewing. Always inspect lenses for defects, scratches or signs of wear. If any problems are noted do not rely on the shades to provide safe viewing. You can also use #14 shade welding glass to protect your vision while sun gazing. Many people wish to view a magnified version of these astrological shows. Although telescopes and binoculars will provide a magnified view they require a “white light” filter which blocks 99.9% of the sun’s rays for safe viewing. Indirect viewing of the event with pinhole projector for an unmagnified view or a telescope or binocular image projected onto a white surface for a magnified one are another safe alternative. 

Guest Blogger: Shari E. Strier, O.D. with the Baltimore Washington Eye Center 

If you or someone you know is concerned about solar retinopathy or how to protect your eyes & retina from sun or solar damage please call Baltimore Washington Eye Center at 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center or

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice serving the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area staffed by a team of Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, Opticians, technical and administrative staff who provide eye examinations for adults and children, diagnosis and treatment of cataracts including cataract surgery and intraocular lens implants (IOL), laser vision correction such as LASIK, diagnosis and treatment of cornea disease, care for diseases of the retina including diabetes and age related macular degeneration (AMD) and diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma as well as contact lenses, eyeglasses, eyewear and optical services. Baltimore Washington Eye Center is conveniently located for patients from Arbutus, Carney, Clarksville, Columbia, Dundalk, Edgemere, Essex, Ellicott City, Ferndale, Glen Burnie, Kenwood, Laurel, Linthicum, Lutherville, Millersville, Odenton Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Towson, Parkville, Randallstown, Rivera Beach, Pasadena, Severna Park, South Gate and Woodlawn Maryland.