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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Viewing The Sun -- With Appropriate Caution

"What we found is that the sun's rays had damaged the photoreceptor layer in a very specific pattern, like a crescent."
"It really aligned with what she drew for us when we first saw her."
"There is no treatment on the horizon, but the horizon is only seen when you're able to see it, and I think that's what this imaging helps us to do."
Avnish Deobhaktya, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Mount Sinai Hospital

"So far, it's a nightmare, and sometimes it makes me very sad when I close my eyes and see it."
"It's embarrassing. People will assume I was just one of those people who stared blankly at the sun or didn't check the person with the glasses."
"It's something I have to live with for the rest of my life."
Nia Payne, 26, New Yorker
Extreme Tech

The unfortunate experience that Ms. Payne underwent that has left her with permanent obstruction to her once-perfect vision presented as a new phenomenon for eye specialists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York when they were confronted with the evidence that their theories about the potential for serious eye damage occurring when exposing unprotected eyes to the full glare of the sun, not only served to confirm for her that she was a victim of circumstances, but also may lead eventually to a cure for her malady.

A new study was recently published by researchers with the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai, outlining findings published in JAMA Ophthalmology, rendered by the realization that no other previous research had resulted in knowledge the Mount Sinai doctors gained when they performed a detailed scan of this woman's retinas. Solar retinopathy has been known to doctors for a long time as a "rare form of retinal injury that results from direct sungazing".

This disastrous outcome can occur when the eyes are burned by the sun's energy, a phenomenon that can occur despite the sun being obscured by the moon, say for example during a solar eclipse, since the sun's rays still reach the Earth. And this, precisely, is what Ms. Payne set out to do; view the historic solar eclipse that occurred in August. Because she was not in possession of protective glasses she took care not to focus with her naked eyes on the sun.

She did, as she walked about on Staten Island, glance at the sun, which was 70 percent covered by the moon, for an estimated six seconds. And then she went looking for sun protection and borrowed a pair of what appeared to be eclipse glasses from someone. With them, she looked directly at the sun for 15 to 20 seconds in the faith that these were eclipse eyewear, which they were, in fact, not. And then she realized in the days that followed that there was a black crescent-shaped spot in the centre of her vision.

When she took herself to the emergency room of the hospital, she was referred to the infirmary. Doctors there confirmed that the black spot in her vision and the damage on her retina were mirror images of the eclipse, proving that scientific "intuitions were correct" in the hypothesis of how it is that the sun damages the eye. Her left eye was more affected than the other, and the doctors felt a closer examination was called for.

With the use of a very precise imagining machine using adaptive optics capable of examining the retina's individual cells they peered closely at the photoreceptor layer of the retina, the portion that "takes in the sun's light and converts it to electrical energy so our brains can make sense of light", explained Dr. Deobhakta. Their finding's significance may well be recognized as the initial step in discovering a treatment for this very type of injury, uncommon and extremely injurious.

Ms. Payne is attempting to train herself to focus mostly with her right eye. She must sit in close proximity to a television to view it, and understandably, reading has become a challenge.

Global News

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