Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Jason Yosar, Associate Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Curious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.

Will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? - Samuel, age 9, Canberra.

Hi Samuel, thank you for your excellent question.

The short answer is if you squeeze your eyes shut very tight and then face the Sun, that should be enough to protect your eyes from damage. You won’t go blind.

But be careful because it is very easy to damage your eyes with sunlight. You should never look directly at the Sun, with or without sunglasses, even during a solar eclipse, because that can cause a lot of damage to the eyes. Sometimes this damage can be permanent.

In August 2017 a very silly man named Donald Trump shocked many people when he looked directly at the Sun without protecting his eyes. Everybody was gathered to see a solar eclipse, which is when the Moon gets in the way of the Sun and blocks out a lot of its light. This doesn’t happen very often and lots of people will gather around to watch one, but people usually wear special glasses (not normal sunglasses) to do it.

Don’t do this.

Sunlight and your eyes

Light from the Sun is very powerful and looking straight at it by accident will usually make you blink and close your eyes involuntarily. That means it happens by itself, without you having to think about it to make it happen.

It’s like how you start blinking when a bit of dust or sand enters your eyes. It’s our body’s way of protecting our eyes from damage. If you squeeze your eyes shut and then look at the Sun, your eyes should be OK.

But what would happen if you forced yourself to keep your eyes open and stared straight at the Sun? (Please don’t do this.)

If you do it for long enough, you might end up with a condition called “solar retinopathy”. This condition is rare because most people are thankfully sensible enough to not stare at the Sun. But it can happen to people who watch solar eclipses without eye protection, or people who stare at the Sun (by accident or on purpose) because they are under the influence of drugs, have a mental illness, or looked at the Sun through a telescope.

will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? You need special glasses to view a solar eclipse. Erwyn van der Meer/Flickr, CC BY

In this condition, affected people will notice blurry vision (especially in the centre of their vision), a “blind spot” in one or both eyes, and distortion of their vision (things might look wavy or wobbly).

This happens because the light from the Sun essentially burns a small spot deep inside the eye on the spot on which it was focused. We unfortunately don’t have any way of treating this condition and if it happens, all we can do is wait and see if it gets better by itself. Most of the time it does, but sometimes the person might have that blind spot in their vision for a very long time, or for the rest of their life.

will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? This is what the 2017 solar eclipse looked like. Flickr/Steve Byrne, CC BY

Flash burn

Something that happens more commonly than solar retinopathy is a condition called “photokeratitis” (most people call it “flash burn”).

This is like having sunburn but on the surface of your eye rather than on your skin. It is very, very painful and people who get it will often need very strong medicines to help with their pain.

will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? Skiiers wear special goggles to protect their eyes from flash burn. Chris Hobcroft/Flickr, CC BY

You don’t usually get this condition from staring at the Sun, but from short bursts of huge amounts of powerful light, like the reflection of sunlight from snow (that’s why many skiers wear special goggles rather than normal sunglasses) or the light that comes from welding metal (which is why welders wear big helmets).

You can also get it if you don’t protect your eyes when using a tanning bed (but you shouldn’t use these anyway because they can cause skin cancer). Thankfully, unlike solar retinopathy, this condition usually gets better by itself in a few days and does not cause any permanent damage.

will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? Your eyes will usually automatically close to protect them from bright light or dust. pixelarity/flickr, CC BY

Not staring straight into the Sun is very important, but so too is protecting your eyes. If you’re outside, always wear sunglasses – they will protect your eyes from the damage the sun causes over months and years.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au

will I go blind if I shut my eyes and face the Sun? CC BY-ND Please tell us your name, age and which city you live in. We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.

Authors: Jason Yosar, Associate Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/curious-kids-will-i-go-blind-if-i-shut-my-eyes-and-face-the-sun-109070

Writers Wanted

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran?

arrow_forward

Ancient Earth had a thick, toxic atmosphere like Venus – until it cooled off and became liveable

arrow_forward

Not just hot air: turning Sydney's wastewater into green gas could be a climate boon

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion