Solar retinopathy

Solar retinopathy

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

ICD-10-DC: H31.0

Retinopathy is a general medical term used to describe any inflammation or degradation in the retina, usually caused by diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The term solar retinopathy is reserved to be used when the inflammation is caused by exposure to sunlight.

Solar retinopathy is a rare ocular lesion that can result from unprotected solar eclipse viewing and also from minimal gazing at the sun. The consequent photochemical/thermal retinal damage often has a subtle presentation, which can be misleading for its diagnosis.

Solar retinopathy is due to a combination of thermal and photochemical injury. A relatively large proportion of the solar energy is concentrated in the blue end of the spectrum. It is thought that solar retinopathy is caused by the photochemical effects of the short wavelengths in the visible spectrum at 400-500 nm, with some thermal enhancement from the longer wavelengths in the infrared. Experimentally it has been shown that the sensitivity of the retina to photic damage increases with a decrease in wavelength. The basic photochemical mechanism underlying the sensitivity of the retina to short wavelengths of visible light is unknown. Several photochemical mechanisms may be responsible for the observed damage.

Eclipse watching is the commonest cause of solar retinopathy.


    Eyes may become watery and sore.

  • Difficulty in seeing shape and detail of objects.

  • Discomfort with bright light.

  • A blind spot in your central vision.

  • Things may appear to be unusually colored.

  • Objects may be distorted in shape.


Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) is a noninvasive imaging technique that is useful for the detection of foveal impairment and to outline the location and extension of retinal injury from acute solar retinopathy. However, acute solar retinopathy can sometimes share biomicroscopic and SD-OCT foveal findings with pathologies such as whiplash injury, sun-bed exposure, ocular trauma, the initial stages of an idiopathic macular hole, persistent retinal defects following successful macular hole repair, idiopathic parafoveal telangiectasis, and solitary macular cysts. Differential diagnosis is often handled according to patient history combined with OCT findings.

Fundus autofluorescence (FAF) is a relatively new and noninvasive technique that is based on the autofluorescent properties of retinal fluorophores, such as lipofuscin, which is mainly located in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Reduced content of lipofuscin in the RPE has been described in cases of light-induced loss of photoreceptors. A history of acute solar retinopathy in some cases is not reliable and fluorescein angiography does not provide further information. Instead, SD-OCT provides a diagnostic aid for relevant findings, even if these are common to several retinal diseases. Furthermore, FAF represents an effective tool to detect subtle changes in the RPE and to provide a better understanding of the pathophysiology of solar retinopathy.


If the damage is mild, your eyesight may return to normal after a time when the swelling at the back of the eye is reduced. The length of time varies with each individual and the extent of the damage. The eye specialist will advise you on how to reduce the discomfort while the swelling goes down.

Unfortunately, if the damage is more severe, your eyesight may be permanently affected. It is only through monitoring of your sight over a period of weeks that the eye specialist will be able to assess the extent of the long-term damage.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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