Eye experts urge caution during eclipse

The Enterprise
VALE — Remember the childhood adage not to stare into the sun?
The motto seems common sense but people – for whatever reason – occasionally disregard the maxim.
Those who do so during Monday’s eclipse face more than breaking a basic rule.
Two local optometrists urged residents to be extremely careful when viewing the historic event next week.
Why? Because the same thing that can happen to your eyes when you stare directly at the sun can occur if you look at the eclipse, even when it appears the sun is mostly obscured.
Dr. Ben Judson and Dr. Ann Easly-Debisschop said residents who decide to forgo using safety glasses or other safety measures to watch the eclipse will suffer permanent eye damage.
“You definitely do not want to look at the sun without proper eclipse glasses,” Judson said.
Judson said residents must be very careful when viewing the eclipse.
“People think the sun is blocked and it is OK but even a sliver of sun showing is still powerful enough to damage your retina,” said Judson.
What happens if you look directly at the eclipse before it reaches totality? Simple, Judson said.
“You can actually burn your retina which can result in permanent vision loss,” he said.
The damage to the eyes can either be short-term or long-term, depending upon the length of exposure. Essentially, excessive amounts of ultraviolet light flood the retina and burn the cornea. The exposure can cause cataracts – murky spots on the eye lense – or spark growths on the eye. Eye damage can also manifest itself with blurred vision or loss of vision in the center of the eye. Permanent damage to the eye can occur in just over a minute.
Easly-Debisschop recommended residents don’t view the eclipse at all with the naked eye or even with glasses specially made for the event.
“There are some of these glasses out that protect you but you don’t know if they are really protecting you. There is no way to measure the protection. So, I don’t trust them,” Easly-Debisschop said.
Easly-Debisschop said one of her worries during the eclipse is eye damage to children.
Judson said he occasionally treats someone who did look directly at the sun too long.
“I’ve had times where people have stared at the sun not so much complaining the eye hurts but that they can’t see well,” said Judson.
That scenario – where there is no pain – worries both optometrists. Individuals won’t feel pain if they damage their eyes watching the eclipse but they will quickly lose their vision.
Judson and Easly-Debisschop said residents must remember that regular sunglasses aren’t suitable for the eclipse. Both optometrists said the safest way to watch the eclipse is by using what is known as a pinhole camera. This box-like device is easy to make and creates a small aperture, or pinhole.
Light from the eclipse passes through the hole and projects onto the opposite side of the box.
Caution is the watchword both Judson and Easly-Debisschop said.
“Damage done to your retina is permanent damage,” said Judson.

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