June 20, 2024

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Some Ontario eye-care professionals see increase in calls

3 min read

It has been a few days since a total solar eclipse passed over parts of Ontario, but ever since the celestial event captured the attention of many there has been an increase in reports of eye pain.

CityNews contacted several hospitals in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to ask about potential patient increases after Google saw an increase in searches related to eclipse eye damage and eye pain.

In the lead-up to Monday’s eclipse, health authorities urged people to use specialized, ISO-rated glasses to safely view the eclipse.

The Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute, located at the University Health Network’s Toronto Western Hospital, was one of the health care institutions that reported an uptick in calls beginning on Tuesday. Officials didn’t provide specifics on the number of calls.

“Complaints about blurry vision and concerns that maybe they had looked inadvertently at the sun or had looked at the sun by mistake,” Dr. Marisa Sit, a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the institute, told CityNews.

“Am I surprised there’s an uptick? No, with any kind of major event there [are] people will react in different ways.”

Eye damage and pain symptoms typically occur several hours after exposure to harmful light. While many can experience a more minor irritation, there’s a concern about solar retinopathy which occurs after light hurts and damages the retinas.

Symptoms of solar retinopathy include blurry vision, seeing spots in the front of your eyes or wavy lines, observing distorted colours and seeing darkened spots where the harmful light came from.

“There is really no medical or surgical treatment that we can offer you,” Sit said.

“If you were to have solar retinopathy, we can observe it over time and hopefully it does improve and resolve on its own. If it does not improve on its own, then it can be left with permanent deficits.”

Representatives for Hamilton Health Sciences, Halton Healthcare and Trillium Health Partners told CityNews they haven’t noticed an increase in patients seeking care after the eclipse.

Dr. Josephine Pepe, the president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, said she and other association members have been “getting more calls than before,” but it’s something she welcomed.

“I think it’s really important that patients call to make sure that their eyes are OK. Most patients are fine and they just need some reassurance,” Pepe told CityNews, adding minor symptoms like dry eyes can be treated.

“We’ve had anecdotes of patients who just didn’t notice that they needed glasses and they went to cover one eye and because they’re more sensitive and thinking about their eyes more because of the eclipse … so they went and got their eyes checked and they needed glasses.”

She noted it appeared many listened to the warnings about taking the proper precautions during the eclipse.

Pepe added that anyone concerned about solar retinopathy could get an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan to get a 3D image of the back of the eye.

With the focus on eye health for some, Pepe and Sit encouraged people to get eye exams regularly. Two-year intervals for adults and more frequent checks for youth were recommended.

Another recommendation was to wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection while outside and to wear sunglasses not just when it’s sunny.

“Sure the clouds help a little bit, but you still can get a lot of UV damage,” Pepe said.

Pepe suggested investing more in sunglasses as more affordable ones can see UV protection rub off. She also said polarized glasses can offer additional protection dealing with sun reflections off water and snow.

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