excerpts from article Solar retinopathy following religious rituals in British Journal of Ophthalmology
Date: May 12, 2009 , Originally published August 11, 1988
Monique Hope-Ross, Stephen Travers, and David Mooney from the Research Foundation, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Ireland present here a series of patients all of whom looked deliberately at the sun for prolonged periods of time. They were encouraged to do so by other pilgrims, who themselves had seen apparitions when staring at the sun. Two of the four patients were amblyopic in one eye, and suffered damage to the dominant eye. All patients suffered irreversible visual damage, with persistent central scotomata. We should ensure that the public is aware of the dangers of sun gazing-whether during religious rituals, sun bathing, or eclipse watching.
Excerpts from the article, decribing cases of Medjugorje pilgrims, are cited below. Whole article in .PDF format can be downloaded at:
"A 39-year-old man presented to the RVEE Hospital, in October 1986. He complained of blurred vision and black spots in front of his left eye. He had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. On 30 September in the late afternoon he had stared at the sun and had seen a vision. The following day he stared at the sun hoping to see the vision again. In an effort to do so he stared at the sun for 45 minutes. While staring at the sun he noticed a black spot, and when he looked away the black spot persisted. His vision was extremely blurred and worsened over the next day. He was unable to recognise people, but over the next week his vision improved.
On examination the best corrected visual acuity in the right eye was counting fingers and in the left eye was 6/9. The right eye had been divergent and amblyopic since childhood. The findings on slit-lamp examination were normal. Colour vision and Goldmann fields were normal. Funduscopy revealed a yellow lesion at the left fovea. This was surrounded by a red circular area. The right fundus was normal. Fluorescein angiography gave normal results. On review in July 1987 he still complained of a black spot in front of his left eye. His visual acuity had returned to 6/5. Amsler grid testing confirmed the presence of a small central scotoma. Funduscopy revealed a pigmentary disturbance at the left fovea, with a honeycomb pattern."
"A 23-year-old nurse presented to the RVEE Hospital in June 1987. She complained of blurred vision and persistent black spots in the central field of vision of both eyes.
The onset of her symptoms was five days prior to presentation. She had no previous ophthalmic history. While on a pilgrimage to Medjugorie she had stared at the sun for 10 minutes in the late afternoon of a hot summer's day. While staring at the sun it went a deep green, surrounded by a gold rim, and when she looked away her vision was blurred.
Three weeks after the initial injury the patient's visual acuity had returned to 6/6 in both eyes. She still complained of bilateral central scotomata, confirmed on Amsler grid testing. Funduscopy revealed slight pigmentary change at both foveas. Fluorescein angiography gave normal results."
"A 33-year-old woman presented to the RVEE Hospital in July 1987. She complained of a black spot in front of her right eye. In May 1987 she had been on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. She had stared at the sun at 7.00 pm intermittently for a few minutes. While she was so doing, the sun had danced and changed colour from orange to black to white. When she looked away she noticed her vision was blurred, and there was a black spot in front of her right eye. Gradually with time her vision improved, but the black spot has persisted.
On examination her visual acuity was 6/9 in the right eye and 6/12 in the left eye. The left eye had been convergent and amblyopic since childhood. The findings on slit-lamp examination were normal. Colour vision and Goldmann fields were normal. Amsler grid testing of the right eye showed a central and two small paracentral scotomata. The left fundus was normal. The right fundus showed an irregular pigmentary disturbance at the fovea and perifoveal area, surrounding a central 'hole-like' lesion."