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Expert Explains Retina Damage Warning Signs after Solar Eclipse

2 years 11 months 2 weeks ago Monday, August 21 2017 Aug 21, 2017 August 21, 2017 4:54 PM August 21, 2017 in News

HARLINGEN - In some parts of the country, the solar eclipse turned day into night on Monday.

However, people in the Rio Grande Valley were able to view only a partial eclipse. 

"Even if it’s just partial, you know, you can get a lot of damage, a lot of damaging rays into the eye,” said Thurmond Eye Associates retina specialist, Dr. Joel George.

Mary Whichmann is 90-years-old. She and her husband are weekly patients of Dr. George. They said both have issues with their retina.

"You just can't see, you're eyes get cloudy and we've had cataracts removed and that's when we found out we had macular degeneration,” said Whichmann.

Whichmann said a damaged retina keeps her from seeing; light is obstructed, much like how the moon covered the sun in today's solar event. She said she experiences her own vision eclipse every day. 

"Reading, like say it’s to-day. The word today, the zero disappears; the d comes over and covers it up. You can't even see it,” she said.

Dr. George said the retina is composed of nerve tissues.

"And there's probably about a million nerves per eye and nerve damage. Nerve does not heal very well,” he explained.

Dr. George said people should get an eye exam right away if they did not wear the proper eye protection during the eclipse. He said the damages could be irreversible.

"Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do once the damage is done. Those high intensity rays burn the retina. Once the retina is burned there's no way to reverse that damage,” he said.

He added treatment could ease the pain.

"We can probably help them out with some anti-inflammatory eye drops to maybe try to minimize the damage from the burn. But once you looked at the sun, the damage is done,” said Dr. George.

Whichmann's diagnosis comes with age. She said those who did look at the sun or didn't use eye wear during the solar eclipse should worry.

"It could burn your retina and then they will be worse off than I am, because I’m going blind slowly. You know they might be very fast,” she said.

Dr. George said some tips to look out for if you have damaged retina are developing headaches, blurry vision and colors can seem off.

He also explained a person a can develop metamorphopsia or when the eye distorts your vision. It makes objects that are straight seem like there’s a curve. 

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