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Protect your vision while watching the solar eclipse

Jannell Cuddy, OD

If you’re planning on viewing the 2017 solar eclipse this August, now is the time to make sure you have everything you need to protect your eyes. Whether you plan to stay here in Washington and see the partial eclipse, or travel into Oregon to see the total solar eclipse, it’s important to be careful with your vision.

Avoiding eye damage

Viewing the sun directly can be extremely damaging to fragile eye tissue and may cause solar retinopathy, which is like a sunburn to the back part of the eye. In mild cases, people may experience vision loss or blind spots that get better over the course of three to six months. In more severe cases, the vision loss or blind spots are permanent. Sometimes it can be hours or days after exposure before the worst of the damage becomes apparent.

Don’t assume that the smallest crescent of sun peering out from behind the moon is safe to view. There’s still an abundance of damaging UV light, and even quick glances are damaging to retina tissue.

Four tips for eye safety

Here are four things you can do to play it safe while enjoying this spectacular celestial event:

  1. Use solar eclipse glasses. Solar filters are considered safe if they meet the international requirement standards known as ISO 12312-2. Regular sunglasses, even if they are very dark, are not safe when viewing the sun.  Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17 are some companies that have solar glasses or handheld solar viewers that are ISO certified.
  2. Check your glasses for damage. Scratches and damage could let sneaky rays get through to your eyes.
  3. Make sure kids’ glasses fit. Glasses should fully cover their eyes and protect them from peeking.
  4. Avoid unfiltered lenses. Cameras, telescopes, and binoculars can magnify the sun’s rays, causing significant injury.

Finally, if you are in the path of totality—where the moon completely blocks the sun and turns day to night for more than two minutes—you may remove your glasses during that time. However, you’ll want to watch the clock carefully so that you don’t accidentally expose your eyes when the sun reappears.

With the proper precautions, you will be able to safeguard your vision while enjoying this incredible occasion.

Dr. Jannell Cuddy is an optometrist in The Vancouver Clinic’s ophthalmology department. She enjoys working with patients to ensure a lifetime of good eye health.