Today is the Solar Eclipse! 7 Eye Safety Tips for #ProtectingSight during #SolarEclipse2017

Today is the Day! #SolarEclipse2017! This is a same day updated blog on protecting sight during the solar eclipse. My initial blog is here. A second blog is here.

As an ophthalmologist, I am increasingly interested in AND concerned with today’s (August 21, 2017) solar eclipse. Ophthalmologists are well aware of the risks of prolonged sunlight exposure to the health of the central vision (macula).  As early as 400 BC, Socrates warned, “People may injure their eyes by observing or gazing on the sun during an eclipse.” Some 2400 years later, we still have an increased risk of vision loss if we do not use proper eye protection when watching the solar eclipse.

iPhone 7 image of the sun taken through American Astronomical Society vendor-recommended solar eclipse glasses.

In my previous blog posts, I offered detailed explanations and links which explain the potential causes and effects of solar eclipse sun gazing and vision loss. Highlights include Retinal Physician (2013) (ophthalmology-speak) and a consumer friendly NASA’s FAQ’s on retinal rod and cone damage here. The oldest article I could find via PubMed search is from a British soldier who experienced a blind spot after the July 1945 solar eclipse in Europe. The full article is in my previous blog post.

Here are my Seven Eye Safety Tips (I call them Pearls) for #ProtectingSight during today’s solar eclipse:

1. The eyes are delicate organs & must be protected! The American Academy of Ophthalmology has an excellent starting point for Solar Eclipse Eye Safety.

2. If you plan to view the sun during the solar eclipse, please use certified solar eclipse glasses manufactured by reputable dealers. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has a list of reputable vendors for solar glasses and viewers. Please check the glasses for any imperfections before the start of the eclipse. Suggested technique: Look AWAY from the sun (i.e. Turn around with your back to the sun) when you put the glasses on AND when you take them off. You should not remove the solar glasses at any point while you are looking in the sun’s pathway.

3. *** Your regular sunglasses are NOT good enough! *** Your regular sunglasses will NOT be sufficient to counterbalance the intensity of enhanced light ray effect during the solar eclipse. They may actually make the situation worse as non-certified solar eclipse glasses may cause the pupil to become bigger (dilate) and not give proper eye protection.

iPhone 7 image of the sun taken through American Astronomical Society vendor-recommended solar eclipse glasses.

4. As an ophthalmologist, I recommend that children must be under extra precaution during the solar eclipse. You don’t want a child to “take a peek” outside of the protective eyewear. The “take a peek” can possibly cause irreversible retina damage.  NASA has an excellent article on “How to safely observe the Sun with young children” (Opens as PDF).  Note the authors explicit recommendation, “Solar glasses should be modified with elastic or tape around the back so they stay on young children’s small faces.” (Safe Viewing Options, page 55)  Great care must be taken for anyone and especially children.

This is one of the best & safest ideas I’ve seen from friends’ kids.  Solar glasses & colorful paper plates, easy to secure and able to protect against peeking:

5. Ophthalmology is about #ProtectingSight. Even this once in a generation event is not worth the risk without proper eye protection. Solar media … ummm I mean social media has numerous stories of patients who lost sight and are advocates for protecting sight. Here is one story from the 1962 solar eclipse.  Instead, watch the livestream eclipse Through the Eyes of NASA!

6. Make notations of the solar eclipse trajectory in your hometown via Time Magazine interactive map. I recommend solar eclipse glasses for all sun viewing during the moon’s entire trajectory across the path of the sun (including in areas of complete darkness!).  NASA eclipse maps are here.

7. A wonderful 4-minute YouTube video by ophthalmology colleague and social media guru Steve Christiansen MD is available on his website (with written narrative) and below.

8. (BONUS PEARL!) We live in a social media world! Don’t forget that your iPhone / Android and other smartphone devices need special filters to block out the intense light AND take useful images. Here is an image with an iPhone taken through a solar eclipse glasses filter:

Here is the same image cropped for social media:

Here is another image with the iPhone closer to the solar eclipse glasses filter to show the intensity of light (also with an Instagram enhancement!):

See the American Academy of Ophthalmology detailed post: Learn How to Photograph an Eclipse Without Damaging Your Eyes or Your Camera.  I have a short YouTube video also:

9. (BONUS PEARL #2) I enjoyed an engaging interview with Fox 29 Philadelphia’s Joyce Evans. All of the video pearls are included in the narrative above. (I’ll post video once available online).

Please stay eye safe on #SolarEclipse2017!

Ravi D. Goel M.D. is a cataract surgeon & comprehensive ophthalmologist at Regional Eye Associates in Cherry Hill, NJ.  He is also a clinical instructor at Wills Eye Hospital.  His patient-friendly YouTube cataract surgery educational videos are here.

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