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Notes From Our Ophthalmic Heritage
December 1998

A look at the past . . .

Arch Ophthalmol. 1998;116(12):1698. doi:10.1001/archopht.116.12.1698


A rare condition to retinal anesthesia said to be due to exposure of the eyes to the moon's ray in sleeping. This popular belief that sleeping exposed to moonlight may cause a dimness of vision which may last some hours or months. This has been observed most frequently among sailors. The condition is apparently due to torpidity of the retina, causing night-blindness; but changes in the crystalline lenses apparently due to exposure to moonlight have been reported (Ole Bull). The patient was a sailor, twenty-six years of age, who slept with two companions on the deck of a ship in the bright moonlight. On waking all had great difficulty in seeing, which condition lasted two months. Small opacities were scattered throughout the crystalline lenses of the patient examined by Bull. It is very probable that this form of amblyopia is largely dependent on impaired nutrition and that the influence of exposure to moonlight is exaggerated.

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