A woman in Staten Island, New York has crescent-shaped damage to her eyes after looking at the solar eclipse.
On August 21, 2017, Nia Payne was one of tens of thousands of people gathered outside to watch the eclipse. She expected to see a potentially once in a lifetime celestial event. What she didn't expect was to end up in the emergency room with crescent-shaped damage blocking the centre of her vision. Her injury is now detailed in the ophthalmology section of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Doctors were able to view the damage on a cellular level using adaptive optic technology. This kind of detail could only be seen on glass slides with a microscope until recently.
Payne said that she went to view the eclipse at her boyfriend's workplace, but due to the widespread shortage of eclipse-safe glasses, she didn't have any. She recounted her experience in an interview with CNN, saying that she looked up at the sun with her naked eye for a few seconds, before approaching a nearby woman to ask if she could borrow her glasses. Payne wore the glasses as she looked up at the partial eclipse for about 15 to 20 seconds. Like most of us, Payne said she didn't know what eclipse glasses were supposed to look like, but she recalled that the sun seemed very bright as if she was looking at it with sunglasses on.
Eclipse viewers were warned to only watch the event with the approved glasses. The special eyewear blocks harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation as it reduces the sun's brightness to a safe level. Solar filters that meet eclipse viewing standards are about 100,000 times darker than an average pair of sunglasses. With the overwhelming popularity of the event, glasses with filters that met the ISO 12312-2 standard were scarce. Warnings were issued by the American Astronomical Society after they received reports of unsafe eclipse glasses flooding the market leading up to the event.
It wasn't until later that Payne noticed a dark spot in the centre of her vision. The next day, she lost vision in the centre of her left eye.
A series of emergency room visits led her to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai where they were able to examine her eye on a microscopic level. Payne was diagnosed with solar retinopathy, retinal damage from exposure to solar radiation, of which there is no cure.
Doctors believe that the glasses Payne used were not up to international safety standards. Payne agreed to participate in a case study that doctors hope will produce findings that may help develop a treatment for solar retinopathy in the future.