MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – If Google search trends are any indication, many South Carolina eclipse watchers may not have heeded expert advice, and are now suffering eye pain and damage, or they were at least searching the internet about it Monday.
Searches for the terms "eyes hurt" and "eye damage" peaked between 2:40 p.m. and 3:10 p.m. in South Carolina Monday, immediately before, during and after the total solar eclipse swept across the Palmetto State in its path across the country.
Google Trends chart showing the number of searches for "eyes hurt" and "eye damage" in South Carolina on Monday. Source: Google
The words "eyes hurt" were most-searched by those in Columbia, followed by the Greenville area, and then the Florence and Myrtle Beach metro area, according to Google Trends, which allows users to gauge what people are Googling by time and location. Those in Charleston Googled "eye damage" the most, followed by people in Columbia, then Greenville.
Google Trends map showing which regions of the state searched more for "eyes hurt" (darker indicates more searches). Source: Google
Concerns about eye damage weren't limited to our area - searches for that term peaked at 2:56 p.m. across the country, and a map shows states roughly in the path of eclipse searched more for that term Monday:
Google Trends map showing which states searched for "eye damage" the most Monday (darker indicates more searches). Source: Google
Related queries in South Carolina were all centered around concerns about the eclipse – those searches included "eyes hurt after eclipse," "why does eclipse hurt your eyes," "headache after eclipse," and "eclipse eye damage."
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eyes can suffer from solar retinopathy from sun-gazing or eclipse viewing, and can result in permanent damage to vision.
Symptoms commonly include blurry vision, difficulty distinguishing between colors, distorted vision, and headaches, according to the AAO.
The symptoms may not show up until 12 hours after viewing the eclipse, according to an NPR interview with Ralph Chou, professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Another symptom may be a spot, or multiple spots, in the center of one's vision.
Chou recommended that seeing an optometrist first if you're worried about eye damage; they will be able to see you faster and recommend an ophthalmologist if there is damage.