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Take Steps to Prevent Eye Injury During the Eclipse

Dr. Greg Brophey of Northwestern Ophthalmology provided some tips about safe viewing of the upcoming total solar eclipse.  

You probably already know that staring into the sun’s rays is harmful to your eyes. It is even more important to keep in mind when viewing the total eclipse on April 8.  Here are some important guidelines to follow: 

  • If you want to observe the eclipse, view the sun through eclipse glasses or an approved handheld solar viewer during the partial eclipse phases before and after totality.   
  • Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe.  Eclipse glasses are thousands of times darker and must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.   
  • The American Astronomical Society recommends purchasing solar glasses and viewers through approved vendors (their website can be found at eclipse.aas.org), rather than eBay, Amazon, or other large, online retailers. 
  • Inspect your protective eyewear before use. Discard eyewear containing bubbles, cracks, or any visible imperfection.   
  • You can view the total eclipse without glasses ONLY when the sun’s bright face, including the bright corona, is completely blocked. This period will last approximately 4 minutes in this area, although the whole event will take about 2 ½ hours.  As soon as even a little bit of sunlight begins to appear, immediately put your eclipse glasses back on.   
  • Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat if you are going to be watching the entire event, to prevent skin damage. 

What Can Happen 

SOLAR RETINOPATHY is a thermally enhanced photochemical retinal injury caused by direct or indirect gazing at the sun, or at an eclipse without proper eye protection. Extent of damage depends on a number of factors, but can occur in seconds.   

No known beneficial treatment exists, and therefore, prevention through education is important.   

Symptoms may be delayed a few hours to days, and include blurred vision, distorted vision, loss of central vision, the perception of smaller or larger image sizes, or headaches.  If you think you have been exposed, reach out to your eye doctor for further information.