Do your eyes hurt after the eclipse? Here's why they may be irritated and what to do.

A man holding eclipse glasses in front of his eyes and looking up.
If you wore proper eclipse glasses, your eyes are likely safe but may be sore from staring, experts say. (Getty Images)

Monday’s solar eclipse left Americans in the path of totality dazzled, but for some it came with an unwelcome side effect: eye pain and irritation. Google searches for variations on “eye pain” have spiked since the moon briefly blocked out the sun, as people wonder if they gazed too long at the astronomical wonder or didn’t properly protect their eyes. Experts say it’s a valid concern, but discomfort isn’t a symptom of the most serious eye health concern associated with solar eclipses — an often irreversible condition called “solar retinopathy” — and, in most cases, can be easily treated.

Not feeling your best? Here’s what to know if you’re worried about your post-eclipse eye health.

👁️ I didn’t wear eclipse glasses and now my eyes hurt. What should I do?

Oddly, pain after looking at the eclipse is a relatively good sign. “If people are having pain, it’s probably not anything significant,” Dr. Russell Van Gelder, an ophthalmologist at University of Washington Medicine and the director of the Karalis Johnson Retina Center in Seattle, told NBC News. “If they have vision issues, they should be seen [by a doctor].”

Pain and discomfort can be the result of minor burns to the eye’s surface, a condition called solar keratitis, Dr. Daniel Lattin, an ophthalmologist at Nemours Children’s Health in Jacksonville, Fla., told NBC News. But that condition is rare and usually seen in climbers who’ve been staring upward for extended periods, he said.

The more serious injury — solar retinopathy — doesn’t usually cause pain. Staring directly at the sun’s powerful rays can potentially cause this condition by damaging the retina. The retina is a sensitive layer of neural tissue, “which is brain tissue,” Dr. Ronald Benner, president of the American Optometric Association (AOA), whose private practice is in Laurel, Mont., previously told Yahoo Life. “Once brain tissue is damaged, it’s damaged.”

However, you might not notice pain or irritation for days. Instead, it’s more common for people who’ve damaged their retinas to see spots or blotches or notice that their color vision seems off, Benner said. Retina damage can lead to permanent vision impairment and, in rare cases, even blindness.

“We don’t have great treatments,” Dr. Nicole Bajic, an ophthalmologist with the Cleveland Clinic, told Yahoo Life. But you should see an eye doctor immediately if you’re having these symptoms. In some cases, the effects will improve with time. In others, they’re permanent, Bajic said.

😎 I did wear eclipse glasses, but my eyes are still hurting. Why is this happening?

First, check the label on the glasses you wore. They should have the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 code printed on them, likely on the inside of the bows. You can also check them against the American Astronomical Society’s list of trusted manufacturers.

If your glasses are the real deal, you were most likely protected from any serious harm, experts say. But if you suspect your glasses are knockoffs, be vigilant for symptoms like seeing spots and consult with an eye doctor if they develop.

But even with proper glasses, your eyes can get sore and dry from long periods of intense focus, Dr. Carl Jacobsen, a clinical professor at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry, told the Washington Post. Some lubricating eye drops should set you straight in short order, he said.

👀 How can I protect my eyes for future eclipses?

It’s critically important to only look at a solar eclipse using ISO 12312-2 glasses; their lenses are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Be sure to put them on securely well before you look up to the eclipse, Benner told Yahoo Life.

And don’t forget that the sun can do just as much damage to your eyes when there isn't an eclipse. You can burn your eyes and develop solar keratitis with even just one day of sun exposure, according to the AOA. The organization recommends wearing sunglasses outside — even on cloudy days — and buying pairs that:

  • Block out 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation.

  • Screen out 75 to 90% of visible light.

  • Have identically colored lenses without any distortions.

  • Have gray lenses that don’t interfere with color vision.