Eye Damage Due to Viewing the Sun and Solar Eclipse without Proper Eye Protection

People have been viewing the sun or “sun gazing” for a long time. This has been done for religious purposes, so called health practices, during drug induced conditions back in the 1960’s and 70’s or just out of stupidity.  However, a solar eclipse gives the observer an interesting and legitimate reason to view the nuclear bomb in the sky that we call the sun. Obviously, precautions must be taken to view this exciting event.

The most common eye condition that results from sun gazing without adequate eye protection is Solar Retinopathy. Your retina lines the inside of your eyes and acts like film in a camera. It contains millions of light receptors called rods and cones. It is commonly thought that sun gazing will “burn out the retina” but technically the temperature of the retina does not increase. Excessive ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes out of control chemical reactions which then cause oxidization and damage to the rods and cones and other retinal tissue. The problem is that eclipse observers don’t know that it is happening. You can’t feel it. But in the next couple of days after sun gazing, your retina will swell and that’s when you will know that you have solar retinopathy. You may notice that your vision will decrease quite dramatically. Solar retinopathy is most cases will resolve within a month to a year but in some cases may cause permanent vison loss. This is why you want to be careful viewing the eclipse on August 21st. Make sure to use eclipse glasses and filters with your telescope or binoculars. A good common sense rule is to not stare at the sun too long, maybe a minute or two at most before looking away. Just be cautious. No need to view the eclipse every second as it will be visible for a few hours.  Ordinary sunglasses are never effective for viewing an eclipse!

Currently Amazon is doing a huge recall on many direct (paper) eclipse viewing devices so we recommend that all eclipse glasses and solar filters be directly purchased only from NASA approved vendors: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

To celebrate this eclipse we are having an eclipse viewing event from 11:30 am-2:30 pm on August 21st. Please join us at Complete Family Eyecare in Burnsville, MN. We will be providing eclipse glasses as well as binoculars and a telescope to safely view the eclipse. Light snacks and beverages will be provided. We hope to see you there!

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