Staring directly into the sun is an obvious no-no.
But even gazing at its glare in your phone screen for too long could equally harm your eyes, experts have now warned.
Two patients suffered retinal damage after being caught out by the sun’s powerful reflection.
Both were certain that they hadn’t looked directly into the sun, leaving doctors to conclude that the glare on their devices was to blame.
A 30-year-old man, who read his tablet for four hours on the terrace of a ski centre, was left with distorted vision and struggled to see objects at a distance. His issues cleared up over time.
Another patient, a 20-year-old woman who used her phone while at the beach for three hours straight, was not so lucky. She was left with a blind spot in the middle of her vision.
Spanish eye doctors, who treated both of the patients, said more awareness of the potential risks was needed.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, they said the sun’s reflection from electronic devices ‘needs to be considered’ as a risk factor for developing solar maculopathy — a condition that usually only occurs among people who look directly at the sun or an eclipse without sunglasses.
Doctors in Spain have now told of the first two patients who suffered eye problems from sun’s reflection on their phone and laptop screens. One unidentified patients had been reading from his device on the terrace of a ski centre for four hours, while the other had spent three hours looking at her phone while at the beach
HOW CAN THE SUN DAMAGE OUR EYES?
UV light from the sun can cause serious eye diseases and conditions.
Sunglasses are the best way to protect the eyes from the sun.
Optometrists advise people to opt for a pair with a ‘CE’ mark, which indicates that the glasses have full UV protection.
Glasses that sit closer to the eye block out more light provide the most protection, while wearing a hat can reduce the light that gets over the top of glasses.
People are advised not to look at the sun directly, as the eye magnifies the power of the sun and can burn a hole in the retina or in light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye.
Source: Association of Optometrists
The two cases, neither of whom were named, are said to be the ‘first’ of their kind.
The 30-year-old turned up at the University Hospital of Santiago de Compostelal with bilateral metamorphopsia — a visual defect that causes straight lines to appear rounded.
He also had a central scotoma — a blind spot in the middle of his vision — and struggled to see objects far away.
Two days earlier, he had spent four hours reading from his tablet computer while outdoors on a skiing holiday.
Scans revealed that the man had a ‘faint greyish spot’ on his fovea, part of the eye used to see things in sharp detail — such as when reading or driving.
In a separate case, a 20-year-old woman attended the hospital with a similar blind spot in her vision and also struggled to distinguish shapes that were far away.
The previous day, she had spent three hours reading from her phone while at the beach.
An eye scan showed that the woman had a ‘small yellowish lesion’ on the macula of each eye — the centre of the retina which is needed to see objects like faces and written words clearly.
She also had dot-shaped scar on her her outer plexiform layer of her retina — which is essential for spatial awareness — and the photoreceptors layer which absorbs light.
Dr Joaquín Marticorena and colleagues said both sets of scan results confirmed the patients had solar maculopathy.
While it is usually triggered by looking directly at the sun, it has been known to occur among those who spend time in the snow or sand without eye protection when it is bright — as both substances reflect light into the eyes.
Sufferers may be left temporary or permanently sensitive to light, as well as with distorted vision or a blind spot.
The male patient was not given any treatment and at a check-up four weeks later, the scarring on his eye had improved. Two months later, he had completely recovered.
The female patient, who also was not given any treatment, still had a blind spot and scarring on the layers of her retina one week later.
While some symptoms improved after five months, she was left with a long-term scotoma in her right eye.
The doctors noted that solar maculopathy can get better on its own — as it did in the man’s case — as the eye heals from the inside out.
However, if the sun has damaged a patient’s outer retinal later they may be left with a blind spot in their vision.
The medics said this is down to the sunlight wiping out photoreceptors on a specific part of the eye, which are needed to convert light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for processing.
Both patients suffered worse harm to their dominant right eye, which the doctors said suggest the sun caused damage as they maintained their gaze on their device for a long period while reading.
They explained that when the sun hits reflective tech screens, it causes a mirror-like reflection which is just as strong as the sun itself.
While some people may avoid the reflection by tilting their device, others may just increase the brightness of their gadget to counteract the reflection.
However, the doctors warned doing the latter doesn’t diminish the brightness of the sun that hits the eye.
They added that the sun’s reflection from electronic devices ‘needs to be considered’ as a solar maculopathy risk.
They urged people to wear sunglasses when looking at devices outdoors when the sun is bright.