An Indian man developed a yellow dot in both of his eyes after sun-gazing every day for 35 years, a new case report has revealed.
The unidentified patient, from New Delhi, looked directly at the sun shortly after dawn for up to 10 minutes each day for religious reasons.
Doctors diagnosed the 62-year-old with solar retinopathy after he complained his vision had become blurry over a period of four months.
Writing in BMJ Case Reports, they said the condition is most often triggered when people attempt to view a solar eclipse.
The unidentified patient, from New Delhi, looked directly at the sun shortly after dawn for up to 10 minutes each day as part of a bizarre religious practice. He developed yellow dots in both of his eyes from the damage, a sign of solar retinopathy
But the team at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said religious sun-gazing can also lead to the serious condition.
It is believed the practice stems from Hira Ratan Manek, an Indian spiritualist who claimed he survived on just water and sunlight for eight years.
Writing in the journal, the doctors said: ‘It is also described following sunbathing, telescopic solar viewing, psychiatric disorders and psychotropic drugs.
‘As it is an easily avoidable condition, prevention is of utmost importance. Therefore, awareness and sensitisation of people to this condition is required.’
Doctors initially assumed the patient’s high blood pressure may be responsible for his progressively worsening vision.
Hypertension, the medical name for high blood pressure, can cause damage to the blood vessels that supply the retina, causing eyesight problems.
But examinations of the interior surface of his eye, known as the fundus, showed a ‘discrete’ yellow dot.
This is a known sign of solar retinopathy and led the experts to suspect the patient’s blurry vision to be a sign of the condition.
The diagnosis was confirmed by questioning the patient, whose vision was shown to be 20/40 in both eyes – worse than the standard 20/20.
The doctors said: ‘He gave a history of performing religious rituals involving direct gazing into the rising sun soon after dawn for five–10 minutes daily.
‘He had been doing this for the past 30–35 years… The direct, prolonged and chronic exposure to sunlight made our patient vulnerable to the disease.’
Solar retinopathy, which has no treatment, normally shows symptoms within a few hours of direct exposure to sunlight.
Recovery can take up to twelve months depending on the extent of damage to the retina. But some damage can be permanent.
EXPLAINED: THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY LOOKING AT THE SUN
If you stare at the sun for too long, it causes damage to the retina known as solar retinopathy.
Solar retinopathy occurs when the retina has been damaged by harmful rays such as UV rays from the sun.
Light will enter the center of the eye known as the pupil and head towards the back where the retina is located.
If that light is a UV ray, then it can burn through the exposed tissue of the retina if the rays are viewed long enough.
The burning of the exposed tissue will destroy cones and rods around the area resulting in a blind spot or color damage in the vision.
These cones and rods are important to protect because they are photoreceptors.
Without certain cones and rods in your vision, it is impossible for light to be broken down and processed by your brain.