1 Day After Solar Eclipse, Thousands Experience Eye Problems

By Tom Mustin

DENVER (CBS4)– A day after the eclipse, some Coloradans are feeling the burn. Optometrists and ophthalmologists across the Denver metro area are seeing a surge in patients complaining of eye discomfort caused by the eclipse.

For weeks, residents have been warned to wear special glasses when viewing the solar spectacle. Now, many of those residents are spending time in the doctor’s office.

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In this NASA handout, A total solar eclipse is seen on August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe. (credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images)

Josh Sparks says Monday’s eclipse was the event of a lifetime.

“It was a mind altering experience,” he told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

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Josh (credit: CBS)

Like thousands of Coloradans, Josh drove to Wyoming to experience the eclipse first-hand.

He wore protective glasses, but removed them briefly to take a series of pictures. Now he’s paying for it.

“After the eclipse was over, I started feeling like I had stared at the sun. When I went to bed last night I woke up and I had had some swelling, some pain in my eyes. I thought I better get in to the eye doctor.

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Josh and Dr. Raul Alderete (credit: CBS)

We caught Josh in the Denver office of Dr. Raul Alderete. Like other eye doctors, Alderete is seeing patients worried about damage to their eyes suffered during the eclipse.

Without protection, the intense light of the sun can cause permanent damage to the retina, and in extreme cases blindness.

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Josh and Dr. Raul Alderete (credit: CBS)

“This gentleman is not alone,” he told Mustin. “It’s so strong, and so intense it can cause damage to a tissue that does not regenerate.”

Alderete estimates 40 million people watched the eclipse along the line of totality.

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CBS4’s Tom Mustin interviews Dr. Raul Alderete (credit: CBS)

He believes tens of thousands of people may have suffered some kind of eye damage.

“You can do the math on that and figure out we’re going to be pretty busy – everywhere from Salem to Charleston.”

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Dr. Raul Alderete (credit: CBS)

Alderete says in most cases, people simply suffered sunburn of the eyes- a minor discomfort that will eventually go away.

“We’ll see what we can do. In some cases it might just be a matter of assurance, which is what I’m hoping for our patient here.”

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Josh (credit: CBS)

Meanwhile, Josh says he’s already planning for the next eclipse in 2024, and he’s learned his lesson.

“If I go, I’m leaving the camera at home,” he laughed.

After the examination, Alderette told us Josh has no permanent eye damage, and is expected to make a full recovery. Anyone who is experiencing any eye discomfort is urged to call their eye doctor.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

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