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Ocular manifestations of torture: solar retinopathy as a result of forced solar gazing
  1. J Polat1,
  2. E Feinberg2,
  3. S S Crosby3,4
  1. 1University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to S S Crosby, Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Crosstown 2, 801 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02118, USA; scrosby{at}

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Solar retinopathy as a result of sun gazing has been well documented and occurs as a result of thermal and photochemical processes after solar exposure.1 Although solar exposure is usually a result of deliberate sun gazing, forced sun gazing can also be used as a torture method.

Torture is prevalent worldwide. In 2007, the Amnesty International documented cases of “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in 81 countries.2

It is important for clinicians to be aware of the physical manifestations of torture because they are not always obvious. Torture methods are often devised to leave minimal long-term physical indications but often have tremendous psychological impact.3 Survivors will often not disclose the experience of their torture with their physician, and the diagnosis may be missed.4


A 58-year-old West African man was referred to an ophthalmology clinic by his primary care physician with a …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval granted by the institutional review board of the Boston University School of Medicine.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.