Prepare to be dazzled by the celestial spectacle as the Annular Solar Eclipse, also known as the ‘Ring of Fire,’ graces the Western Hemisphere on Saturday, October 14!
As an ophthalmologist, I am increasingly concerned with eye safety when watching a solar eclipse. Ophthalmologists are well aware of the risks of prolonged sunlight exposure to the health of the central vision, or 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.
In 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. One of the oldest articles I could find is from a British soldier who experienced a blind spot after the July 1945 solar eclipse in Europe. The full article is in a previous blog post.
Here are my Seven Eye Safety Tips/Pearls for #ProtectingSight during a solar eclipse:
1. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has an excellent resource at Solar Eclipse Eye Safety.
2. 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.
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 published an excellent resource for K-12 Formal Education solar eclipse here. 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. 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.
6. Make notations of the solar eclipse trajectory in your hometown via your local media’s interactive maps. 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!).
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:
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 2017 interview with Fox 29 Philadelphia’s Joyce Evans. All of the video pearls are included in the narrative above:
Please stay eye safe on #SolarEclipse2023!
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.