Many people are very excited about the upcoming total solar eclipse in North America. Be sure to protect your eyes adequately if you wish to view the eclipse. Watch this episode of A State of Sight with Isaac Porter, MD to learn how to be safe and what can happen from sun damage.
Welcome to A State of Sight, I’m Isaac Porter and this is your update in ophthalmology and eye care. Soon, there is going to be a total solar eclipse stretching across the United States, all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. It will be viewable by most people in the United States.
There is a lot of excitement about the eclipse and I wanted to share a few tips on how you can view the eclipse safely. First and foremost, it’s important to know that you have to obtain proper solar filters or eclipse sunglasses in order to view the eclipse safely.
There is a list online from the American Astronomical Society that show approved reputable vendors where solar filters can be obtained that have followed rigorous standards in production. These filters only let a limited amount of sunlight pass safely into your eyes. The eclipse glasses have a very dark filter that allows you to look directly at the sun.
You may have heard that it is safe to take a quick glance at the sun during the eclipse. While this is true, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, at least not more than only one quick glance because every time you look at the sun, the effects can add up there can be severe damage to your vision even with quick glances.
Only use proper filters to view the solar eclipse. If you are going to be using binoculars, a telescope, or a camera to view the eclipse, then you want to make sure that you obtain specialized filters to protect the instrument and also protect your eyes. Regular solar filters used for direct viewing will not work with these other devices.
Another way to view the eclipse is by using a pinhole effect. When using a pinhole, the eclipse and the sun would be at your back then you could look through a pinhole filter to see the image of the eclipse beyond that. This can be done with your hands on top of each other crossing your fingers, or with a paper with small pinholes in it.
There is a path about 70 miles wide stretching across the United States where there is going to be a total eclipse. In this area during the time of the total phase (totality), it is actually safe to look directly at the eclipse because it is fully blocking the rays of the sun. This will only last for two minutes and forty seconds at the longest point.
However, even just before and just after the total phase it is dangerous to look at the sun, so if you are going to look at the sun in one of the areas of totality, you will have to be very careful to ensure that you only look during the total phase. Here in Raleigh we are expecting a 92% eclipse at the greatest point so it will not be safe to look at the sun at any time without solar filters.
The potential eye problems from the sun could be decreased vision, a blind spot in the center of your vision, or distortion in vision. These problems usually don’t happen immediately but may begin a few hours after the eclipse and potentially the damage could be permanent.
Eye problems from viewing the sun may improve and the vision may recover in the first three to six months afterwards, but there is a risk that it may not improve. We definitely don’t want to see anyone get into trouble with their vision, so make sure you are safe viewing the eclipse.
If you have any questions about this exciting event, please post and we will be happy to answer them. Hopefully see you again soon next time on A State of Sight.
Dr. Isaac Porter, MD is an ophthalmology specialist in Raleigh, NC. Dr. Porter is also a fellowship-trained refractive surgeon. His areas of expertise include laser vision correction with LASIK, LALEX (SMILE), PRK, and LR, as well as modern cataract surgery, including laser surgery and advanced technology lens implants that can correct a wide range of vision and astigmatism. He is also the only surgeon in North Carolina performing the newest laser vision correction procedure, LALEX (SMILE). He graduated from University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 2005.