Optometrists advise eclipse viewers to protect eyes

Ashley Moretti, Candace Wright
ADVANCE FOR RELEASE SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. MDT. AND THEREAFTER In this Tuesday, July 18, 2017 photo, Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21, from Twin Falls. (Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – There’s a lot of hype built up about the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. While it’s an exciting time and it’s something a lot of people want to see, optometrists want people to understand the risks associated with viewing the eclipse.

The biggest risk is permanent vision loss – something eye doctors call “solar retinopathy.”

“If we actually view the sun, it will most likely burn a small spot through our central viewing area of our retinal tissue,” said Dr. Megan Baldwin, with The Eye Gallery. “That area of our retina is responsible for 85 percent of our vision, so if we have a little defect in that area, it’s pretty significant vision loss.”

According to Baldwin, solar retinopathy is similar to a sunburn. When it’s occurring, you won’t feel anything. The effects won’t be noticed or felt until several hours after, which includes a blind spot or hazy, blurry vision.

Baldwin said solar retinopathy is not treatable.

She suggested that the safest option is indirect viewing, but recognizes some people will still go outside to view the eclipse.

NASA and the American Astronomical Society have safe viewing tips on their website.

However, Baldwin is worried people are going to be so excited about seeing the eclipse, they might forget about safety.

“There’s a lot of people that are still probably going to be viewing the eclipse and be kind of excited about that, and pull their glasses off really quick before they actually averted their eyes from the sun, so there’s some issue there,” she said.

Baldwin added that kids might be tempted to pull of the solar eclipse glasses to a get a more complete view.

Here are safety tips when viewing the eclipse:

  • Keep the glasses on at all times
  • Glance at the eclipse and look away, as opposed to prolonged viewing or staring
  • When you remove the glasses, look down and away from the eclipse
  • Parents should practice indoors with children before going outside

Lake Afton Public Observatory has received many calls from people asking about the quality of eclipse glasses purchased from online sources.

Here are some easy tests to make sure the glasses are safe:

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