Doctors report on number of people with eye concerns at hospital A&E following 1999 Eclipse in Ireland

Eye doctors issue stark eye health warning ahead of solar eclipse

The training and professional body for eye doctors in Ireland, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) has issued a stark eye health warning ahead of tomorrow’s solar eclipse to highlight the serious eye health risk the phenomenon presents.

A spokesperson for the ICO stated that in the aftermath of the last eclipse, which occurred in Ireland in 1999, the A&E department of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin alone saw 139 people present themselves with concerns about damage to their sight between the 11 and 18th August.

Symptoms reported included headaches, photo sensitivity (or sensitivity to light), blurred vision and floaters.  Of the admissions, 72 patients required follow up and 8 had done permanent damage in the form of burns to their retina, a condition called solar retinopathy or solar maculopathy which is sadly irreversible and for which there is no treatment for.  Solar burns to the retina are not painful and the loss of vision is not always immediate but if damage is done, it is unfortunately irreversible.  

Mr Billy Power, Eye Surgeon at the Eye and Ear and Blackrock Clinic and in-coming President of the ICO remarked;  

We have seen this happen before and had a bad experience.  The message the eye doctors want to communicate is that this isn't something to take lightly.  If a person takes a risk by looking directly at the sun at any time but most especially during an eclipse, they have a very high chance of permanently scaring the retina, the area at the back of the eye responsible for vision. The doctors would hope the situation will be very different this time around and that not one person damages their sight permanently.”

The ICO advise that extreme caution must be exercised where children are concerned.  Children should not be allowed to look directly at the sun at any time and should be under adult supervision if they wish to experience the eclipse using the safety precautions.  The potential damage is usually more severe because the child's natural lens is so clear that it lets more ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the back of the eye.


For more information and tips on eye health, visit the Irish College of Ophthalmologists website



19th March 2015