Photic retinopathy is damage to the eye's retina, particularly the macula, from prolonged exposure to solar radiation or other bright light, e.g. lasers or arc welders. The term includes solar, laser, and welder's retinopathy and is synonymous with retinal phototoxicity. It usually occurs due to staring at the sun, watching a solar eclipse, or viewing an ultraviolet, Illuminant D65, or other bright light.
Although it is frequently claimed that the retina is burned by looking at the sun, retinal damage appears to occur primarily due to photochemical injury rather than thermal injury. The temperature rise from looking at the sun with a 3-mm pupil only causes a 4 °C increase in temperature, insufficient to photocoagulate. The energy is still phototoxic: since light promotes oxidation, chemical reactions occur in the exposed tissues with unbonded oxygen molecules. It also appears that central serous retinopathy can be a result of a depression in a treated solar damaged eye.
The duration of exposure necessary to cause injury varies with the intensity of light, and also affects the possibility and length of recovery.
Signs and symptoms
Vision loss due to solar retinopathy is typically reversible, lasting for as short as one month to over one year. The fundus changes are variable and usually bilateral, mild cases often show no alteration and moderate to severe cases show a foveal yellow spot on the first days after exposure. After a few days it is replaced by a reddish dot often surrounded by pigment.
Permanent holes and lesions are possible; prognosis worsens with mydriatic pupils or prolonged exposure.
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