Clinical Study | Published:

Eclipse retinopathy

Eye volume 15, pages 148151 (2001) | Download Citation

Presented as a poster at the Annual Congress of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, 2000



Purpose Solar retinopathy is a well-recognised clinical entity of macular damage caused by viewing the sun, induced by a photochemical process. The term ‘eclipse retinopathy’ is frequently employed when the condition is sustained as a result of viewing a solar eclipse. Considerable public excitement had been raised in anticipation of the full solar eclipse on 11 August 1999. Whilst experience has shown that visual morbidity is likely to be temporary, current evidence is anecdotal and restricted to isolated case reports and series. This study was conducted to establish the true visual morbidity associated with a solar eclipse, and whether it was temporary or permanent.

Methods A 3 month active case ascertainment study was carried out from July to September 1999 to record cases presenting to ophthalmologists with visual symptoms arising from solar viewing. Further information about the cases was sought using a short questionnaire. A follow-up questionnaire requesting outcome data at 6 months was also employed.

Results There were 70 reported cases of visual loss. The average age was 29.5 ± 12.9 years. Half the cases presented to an ophthalmologist within 2 days of the eclipse. An abnormal macular appearance was reported in 84% of patients at presentation. There have been no reported cases of continued visual loss or symptoms at 6 months.

Conclusions This is the largest nationwide study of the visual effects of a solar eclipse ever undertaken. There were no recorded cases of permanent visual loss, which corroborates the previous evidence that visual morbidity is likely to be temporary. It would appear probable that public health education was most effective in reducing visual morbidity and hence keeping the consequent burden on the NHS to a minimum.


  1. 1.

    , . Eclipse blindness. Am J Ophthalmol 1966;61:1452–7.

  2. 2.

    . Visual prognosis after solar retinopathy. Br J Ophthalmol 1969;53:534–41.

  3. 3.

    . Solar retinopathy. BMJ 1967;III:212–4.

  4. 4.

    . Solar retinitis. Br J Ophthalmol 1948;32:23–34.

  5. 5.

    , . Self-induced solar retinopathy by patients in a psychiatric hospital. Am J Ophthalmol 1970;69:731–6.

  6. 6.

    , . Sungazing as the cause of foveomacular retinitis. Am J Ophthalmol 1970;70:491–7.

  7. 7.

    . The cure of imperfect sight by treatment without glasses. (Solar retinopathy in Manchester area.) Trans Ophthalmol Soc 1920;104:625–8.

  8. 8.

    . System of ophthalmology. Vol 4. Non-mechanical injuries. St Louis: CV Mosby, 1972:837–916.

  9. 9.

    . Stereoscopic atlas of macular disease. St Louis: CV Mosby, 1977:322–6.

  10. 10.

    , , . The macula: a comprehensive text and atlas. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1980:331.

  11. 11.

    . A review of solar retinitis as it may pertain to macular lesions seen in personnel of the Armed Forces. Am J Ophthalmol 1945;28:1158–65.

  12. 12.

    , . Foveomacular retinitis. Arch Ophthalmol 1966;76:498–504.

  13. 13.

    , . Solar retinopathy and foveomacular retinitis. Ann Ophthalmol 1975;7:495–503.

  14. 14.

    , , , . Ultrastructural findings in solar retinopathy. Eye 1993;7:29–33.

  15. 15.

    , , , . Solar retinopathy: a photobiological and geophysical analysis. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc 1987;85:120–58.

  16. 16.

    , , . Early and late visual prognosis in solar retinopathy. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 1995;233:801–4.

  17. 17.

    , , . Therapeutic parameters of methylprednisolone treatment for retinal photic injury in a rat model. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol 1992;77:299–311.

  18. 18.

    . Retinal protection from solar photic injury. Am J Optom Phys Optics 1981;58:570–80.

  19. 19.

    , . Safety with lasers and other optical sources. New York: Plenum Press, 1980.

  20. 20.

    . Observing the sun in safety. J Br Astron Assoc 1982;92:257–9.

  21. 21.

    , . Transmission of the ocular media. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1962;1:776–83.

  22. 22.

    , , . Solar chorioretinal burn. Am J Ophthalmol 1956;41:1048–53.

  23. 23.

    . Solar eclipse-findings among children. Metab Ophthalmol 1978;2:351–2.

Download references

Author information


  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, UK

    • M Michaelides
  2. Department of Ophthalmology, North Hampshire Hospital, Basingstoke, UK

    • R Rajendram
    •  & S Keightley
  3. Department of Ophthalmology, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK

    • J Marshall


  1. Search for M Michaelides in:

  2. Search for R Rajendram in:

  3. Search for J Marshall in:

  4. Search for S Keightley in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M Michaelides.

About this article

Publication history





Further reading