If You’re Worried About Eye Damage After The Solar Eclipse, Here’s What To Know

by Lilli Petersen

As the solar eclipse moves eastward across America, eclipse glasses are in short supply — and some people are daring the forbidden, and looking at the eclipse with bare eyes. But despite the allure of the solar eclipse, looking directly at the sun can seriously damage your eyes. But if you've already gone ahead and done it, you're probably wondering: what are the signs of eye damage after an eclipse?

The scariest thing about eye damage from the solar eclipse is that you might not be able to immediately tell, according to NBC News. Even if you have hurt your eyes, symptoms could take hours, days, or even weeks to appear. And those symptoms? Well, the main thing to watch out for is more or less what you'd expect — eye soreness, sensitivity to light, and the big red flag, loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Looking directly at the solar eclipse can cause problems both short and long-term.

Some short-term problems are solar or ultraviolet keratitis, which is essentially a sunburn of the eyes. UV exposure will damage your corneas, which can cause pain and light sensitivity, with symptoms appearing within about 24 hours.

Long term? You could suffer solar retinopathy, which is when the sun literally burns a hole in your retina. The symptoms are loss of central vision, as well as "graying" of vision, fuzziness, blurriness, or even a blind spot. The symptoms can last for weeks or months, or — terrifyingly — even be permanent.

So don't stare at the sun. Seriously. Just don't do it. (At least not without eclipse glasses.)

But what about a quick peek? Will that burn a hole in your eye?

Mm, probably not.

Despite everyone freaking out, the sun isn't more dangerous to look at than it is on any other day — it's just that with the eclipse and the partially blocked light, it's a lot more tempting to stare. What makes it worse is that your natural instincts to blink, look away, or otherwise react to painful light are also a lot less likely to kick in with less light to react to.

Generally speaking? A second or two is fine, but not more than that. So if you just quickly glanced up as everyone else oohed and ahhed, you're probably fine.

But more than that? Well, call up your ophthalmologist and see when he or she can fit you in. They're probably more than ready.