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Solar Eclipse Safety: Springfield Clinic Encourages Safe and Fun Viewing of August Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of the United States will have a solar eclipse. The moon will cover at least part of the sun for 2 to 3 hours. During that time Springfield Clinic Eye Institute would like to remind everyone on the importance of eye safety. It is vital that people wear proper eye protection to avoid any temporary or permanent eye damage from the sun.

Jeffrey Young, OD, Optometrist with the Springfield Clinic Eye Institute states, “Looking at the sun, with or without an eclipse, can cause permanent damage to the central part of the retina (inner layer of the eye) which can result in a permanent central blind spot and irreversible loss of vision.”

It is unsafe to view an eclipse without certified "eclipse glasses" except during the "totality phase" which lasts a little over two minutes. Here in central Illinois, however, there will be no totality phase, so be sure to use specially designed and approved glasses designated as meeting the ISO 12312-2 standard for safe viewing during this partial eclipse. Regular sunglasses, no matter if they are very dark or polarized, are inadequate and unsafe to use.

Taking pictures of the eclipse is not recommended without use of proper solar filters in the front of your camera, as it may damage your camera or cell phone camera.  In addition, the photographer may inadvertently look at the eclipse, which could cause permanent loss of vision.

To ensure spectators won’t miss the remarkable sight, the American Optometric Association (AOA) is sharing a few tips for safe viewing:

  • Get centered and enjoy the view. Within the path of totality, you can safely witness the two or more minutes when the moon completely covers the sun with the naked eye. Otherwise, your eyes should always be protected by verified viewing tools. Never look directly at the sun without eye protection, even briefly. Visit eclipse.aas.org to access eclipse duration charts.
  • Know your duration. Outside of the path of totality, always use solar filters. O.D.s want to reinforce that the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters or other ISO-certified filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers. The AOA encourages ordering solar eclipse glasses in advance and recommends referring to the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) site for a list of manufacturers.
  • Be aware of harmful solar exposure. If you stare at the sun without protection, you may experience damage to your retina (the tissue at the back of your eye) called “solar retinopathy.” This damage can occur without any sensation of pain, since the retina does not have pain receptors. The injury can be temporary or permanent. Visit your local doctor of optometry immediately if an accident occurs.
  • Visit your doctor of optometry. Check in with your Springfield Clinic specialist for information about safely viewing the eclipse. If you experience any problems with your eyes or vision after the eclipse, our office will be able to provide you with the medical care you need.

Click here to access additional information and educational materials on the solar eclipse.

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