The Great American Solar Eclipse plunged a huge portion of the United States into darkness today and more than a few folks may have risked glancing up at the sun without the proper protective gear. So, if you're one of those folks, you might be wondering: how long does it take to know if you damaged your eyes from the solar eclipse? Well, the reaction is more delayed than you'd think.
For the first time in nearly 100 years, a total solar eclipse — which occurs when the moon moves directly in between the sun and the earth — was visible from coast-to-coast in the United States. A path of "totality," nearly 70 miles wide, cut its way across country, beginning in Oregon, peaking in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and ending in South Carolina. A partial glimpse of the eclipse was available for the remainder of the states. Millions flocked to prime viewing spots, whole cities came to a standstill, and at libraries and retail locations across the country, more than 3.5 million pairs of eclipse glasses were handed out by the Space Science Institute's STAR_Net initiative.
But those glasses, although they may look eerily similar to the early aughts 3-D movie specs, were serving an incredibly serious function: protecting your eyes from damage. And if you looked at the eclipse unencumbered,
It's common knowledge that you really shouldn't stare at the sun on a regular day. But when it's obscured by the moon, people are often tricked into thinking they can stare directly into the sun for longer periods of time. Guess what? Those very damaging UV rays are still out and about and causing damage! You just aren't immediately aware that you're cookin' those retinas!
Most symptoms only begin presenting after eight to 12 hours post-exposure and can take up to several days to develop, Dr. Brian Pennington, an emergency room physician, told the Dayton Daily News. He cited dryness, redness, pain or feeling like there's something stuck in your eye. In serious cases, it can cause a permanent loss of vision. Preventblindness.org added distorted or altered color vision and loss of central vision, referred to as solar retinopathy.
If you think you may have damaged your eyesight during the eclipse, head to your eye doctor ASAP.