What Can You Do to View the Historic Eclipse Safely?
With the first total eclipse of the sun in four decades less than a month away, the
buzz is growing as schools announce they will close for the day, social gatherings
are being planned and people are deciding on their “must see” viewing location.
But amid the build up to the big day, it’s critical to consider how your vision can
be injured by unprotected viewing, warns Sweta Kavali, M.D., a SLUCare ophthalmologist
and retina specialist.
“The eclipse is expected to last a little more than two minutes however the damage
to your eyes could last a lifetime,” she says.
“Without appropriate protection, viewing the sun or partial eclipse can cause solar
retinopathy, a condition where the retina is permanently damaged that can lead to
decreased vision,” Kavali adds. “The vision loss is typically irreversible. On a cellular
level, the UV light induces a photochemical reaction that leads to oxidative damage
of the photoreceptors.”
Kavali, who also is an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Saint Louis University,
said it’s not just wearing eye protection but wearing the right kind of eye protection
that makes a difference.
“The only safe way to view the eclipse is to use ISO rated eclipse glasses,” Kavali
said. “The glasses are specified by ISO 12312-2, which will be written somewhere on
the glasses. Dark sunglasses and homemade filters are not sufficient for looking at
the eclipse. Cameras and phones also should not be used to photograph the eclipse
without a special filter.”
Kavali said it’s also important to know the signs that your eyes may have been damaged
and when to seek medical care.
“Symptoms can include blurry vision, a central or paracentral scotoma (blind spot)
and distortion in vision,” Kavali said. “Solar retinopathy is painless. If you think
you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your eye care provider to be examined.”