Total Solar Eclipse November 2012 in Australia: Viewers May Have Suffered Eye Damage

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | November 16, 2012 3:08 PM EST

Over 60,000 people witnessed the exceptional November 2012 solar eclipse that occurred above Cairns and Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia. Now, ophthalmologists claim that these viewers may have suffered permanent eye damage or vision loss with sun-burnt eyeballs after looking at the total solar eclipse.

Studies confirmed that 5000 out of 100,000 viewers most likely looked directly at the total solar eclipse with their naked eye. According to eye expert Dr. Bill Glasson, sky-gazers who woke up with a black spot in their vision after watching the total solar eclipse have acquired some type of eye damage. Even those people who put on solar eclipse glasses and stared strongly at the intense rays are at risk.

Dr. Bill Glasson, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, revealed that previous solar eclipse studies established irreversible eye damage in every five out of a hundred viewers. "They will have a blind spot, or black spot, in the middle of their vision when they wake up," Dr. Glasson said.

"If it persists for more than a day certainly it will have done some damage. Some may find they have a permanent burn scar on the back of the eyeball and visual loss for the rest of their life," Dr. Glasson further added.

Also, ophthalmologist Dr. Andre Horack of the Vision Eye Institute Mackay confirmed that the affected solar eclipse viewers may notice a small dark spot in the middle of their eye. "Within one to four hours of exposure people may experience a loss of vision or small darkening spot in their vision when they read or look directly at something. We haven't seen any eclipse eye damage cases yet. There's nothing we can do. The cure is prevention," Dr. Horack stated.

However, Dr. Horack affirmed that vision may return to normal in about six months. "Mild symptoms may persist. A few unlucky people may have to live with it for a long time. Theoretically, the sun can do the same damage the eclipse does but the eclipse lets people look at it for a longer time," Dr. Horack explained.

Dr. Horack advised that people should never gaze directly at a solar eclipse. "Damage can affect central vision and it can be present in one or both eyes. The best way to look at the eclipse is indirectly. You can cast a shadow of the sun on ground, which is the safest way. Number 14 welding glasses are considered safe, telescope sun filters or specifically designed solar glasses," Dr. Horack shared.

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