Thousands may be experiencing eye problems after eclipse

Thousands of people across the country are experiencing eye problems, a day after the eclipse.

Complaints are worse in areas of totality where spectators took off protective glasses in darkness, but perhaps didn't pop them back on fast enough as the sun re-emerged.

Even Bay Area doctors are getting worried calls, although cloudy conditions provided some protection.
"The majority of patients haven't done any damage, it they get checked they can be reassured their retina is normal," Dr. Kathryn Najafi-Tagol of Marin Eye Institute told KTVU.

Najafi-Tagol is a board-certified eye physician and surgeon, who has seen several anxious patients since the eclipse, and has more exams scheduled.

Opthomologists know that when protective glasses became scarce, people improvised, and many may have taken a quick glimpse of the eclipse.

"It's up there and it's irresistible, and it's such a rare occasion," acknowledged Najafi-Tagol, "but we have two eyes and they are so precious."

Even on a normal day, looking too long at the sun can burn your retina, but that will generally heal.
Sore, watery eyes indicate a temporary burn.

But symptoms that show up later: blurred vision, blind spots, color distortion, could all indicate the more lasting damage of solar retinopoly.

"It is a change in pigmentation in the retina," explained  Najafi-Tagol, "and the defects can be lasting."

he overcast Bay Area skies did reduce the risk for sky-gazers.

"You can still have UV damage in general, even with clouds," clarified the doctor, "but it's not going to be the solar retinopoly we would be concerned about with the eclipse."
Still she understood why nervous spectators want reassurance.

"Some patients were worried because it was cloudy so they were kind-of looking, then the sun came out and they were still looking," Najafi-Tagol noted.

A patient in her office Tuesday afternoon, said he lost all vision in his left eye when he accidentally walked into a wooden stake he couldn't see.

"You have no idea. We just take good eyesight for granted, and it can quickly disappear," John Galbraith of Novato told KTVU.

After his year-long adjustment, Galbraith and wife Susan can't imagine why anyone would willingly risk their vision, especially when the eclipse was accompanied by incessant warnings about protective eyewear.

"Well it's very difficult I think, the minute you're told you can't do something, you're naturally going to want to go and look," observed Susan.

"There is no going back," cautioned John, "and when you're down to one eye, your biggest fear is you'll lose the other one."