Every day in the world “93 million selfies are taken. But staring directly at the sun, even for a few seconds, on the beach or in the mountains, in search of the perfect catch-like shot, can create photothermal damage to the retina”. It can ‘burn’ it “even irreparably, as when a solar eclipse is observed without the light radiations being adequately shielded by specific glasses. Damage to the retina can also be caused by prolonged use of smartphones and tablets. In fact, the screen exposed to the sun acts as a reflecting surface like a mirror and the harmful rays, converging on the macula, the most noble part of the retina, produce a degenerative effect”. This was explained by the ophthalmologists of Siso, the Italian Society of Ophthalmological Sciences, launching a warning inspired by two cases recently described in the ‘Journal of Medical Case Reports’.
Episodes documenting permanent retinal damage reported by a 30-year-old man who 2 days earlier had spent 3 hours reading on his tablet while hiking in the mountains, as well as a 20-year-old girl who had spent 2 hours the day before hours looking at the phone at the beach. “They are clear examples of solar maculopathy – says Scipione Rossi, director of the UOC Ophthalmology San Carlo di Nancy Hospital in Rome and secretary treasurer of Siso, who opens its second congress today in Rome – A condition determined by the absorption by the retina and the “pigmented epithelium of a high radiant energy which initially causes a sensation of dazzle. In the most serious cases, the nerve cells in a few days can form a black spot in the center of the eye (scotoma). The lesion can be permanent and cause a reduction in irreversible central vision because once dead, obviously, cells do not reproduce.For this reason it is advisable – Rossi recommends – to avoid selfies in the sun without specific protections, because sunglasses are not sufficient to adequately filter light radiations. Prolonged use of tablets and smartphones without wearing sunglasses should also be limited.”
But the improper use of electronic devices isn’t the only mistake we tend to make in the summer. “In general – experts warn – even excessive exposure to the sun, walking or standing still on the beach or in the mountains, can pose risks to your eyesight. Water reflects 10 to 20% of UV rays. But also in the mountains , where ultraviolet rays are often more intense than in the plains, hikers who do not wear sunglasses with adequate filters can report serious alterations of the ocular surface”.
“UV rays can damage the eyes, just like sunburn damages the skin with risks that are often ignored or underestimated – underlines Stanislao Rizzo, director of the eye clinic at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome and member of the Siso board of directors – Eye injuries from UV rays may be temporary or permanent.They indicate light damage to the ocular surface due to excessive and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays, which may be magnified by reflections from water and altitude and may cause conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva from dehydration, and photokeratitis, a lesion of the cornea manifesting as extreme sensitivity to light and pain.”
“Damage from UV rays – highlights the specialist – can be confused with other irritating factors for the eyes such as sand and wind. This is why it is important to clarify the typical symptoms that usually occur 3 to 12 hours after sun exposure: sore, itchy, watery, red eyes, and blurry, blurry vision.”
“In most cases – remarks Rizzo – they heal after 2 or 3 days, because the superficial layers of the cornea have the ability to regenerate in a short time. But to determine the extent of the damage, it is necessary to visit an ophthalmologist who can prescribe anti-inflammatories in eye drops, antibiotics to avoid superinfection and gel containing vitamin D. However – concludes the expert – the continuous stress given by the sun’s rays can cause chronic eye dryness which involves redness and thinning of the tear filter, but can even increase the risk of macular degeneration and also accelerate diseases such as cataracts”.