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This is why you don't look directly at a solar eclipse

A woman has permanent vision loss because she looked at the sun for six seconds.
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Press Herald via Getty Images

Remember all that talk about eclipse glasses ahead of the full solar eclipse in August? Remember NASA repeatedly letting everyone know how important those glasses were for eye safety? Do you remember how many times you heard someone say to not under any circumstances look directly at the sun during the eclipse? Well despite all of those persistent warnings, some people still did just that and a new paper published today in JAMA Ophthalmology shows that just six seconds of unprotected viewing can cause permanent damage.

The paper focuses on a woman in her 20s who looked directly at the sun without eye protection for around six seconds during the eclipse. She said her vision became blurry and distorted just a few hours later and that she started seeing a black spot when looking out of her left eye. Three days after the eclipse, she went to an ophthalmologist in New York and subsequent eye exams showed she had permanently damaged photoreceptors in both eyes and a lesion in her left. "It remains to be seen whether the patient can recover any visual function from this region of disturbed photoreceptors in the future," the authors note in the case study.

There's no treatment for this type of damage but getting a good look at what exactly is affected in the eye after staring at the sun could help ophthalmologists better understand this condition. The US will see another total solar eclipse in 2024, so let this serve as a warning -- the sun is no joke and you need eye protection if you're going to look at it, eclipse or no.

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