Posted on July 31, 2017
Safe Viewing of the Solar Eclipse
By: Jeffrey Colburn, MD
You are probably all aware of the coming Great American Solar Eclipse coming later this month on August 21st. This will be such an exciting event since there has not been a coast to coast total solar eclipse viewing in the USA for 99 years. Here in Spokane we will not get to see the total eclipse, but will get to enjoy close to a 90% eclipse. We hope that many or all of you will have the opportunity to see this exciting event.
HOWEVER, we must warn you that looking directly at the sun, even during most of an eclipse, can permanently blind you! Direct sunlight is so powerful that it will actually burn your retina inside your eyes. If you are looking directly at the sun the burns will occur right in the middle of your vision. This is called Solar Retinopathy, and the vision loss rarely improves. During my residency training, I had a 20 year old patient who had unfortunately blinded himself in both eyes for life as a result of looking at the sun.
Thought it is true, as you will hear, that for a brief time during the middle of a total eclipse you can view the event without protection, the risks are simply too great for us to recommend doing so. Children especially should not be allowed to watch the eclipse without proper protection. And here in Spokane, since there will not be a total eclipse, no one should watch it for any period of time unprotected.
To watch the eclipse, you need to have appropriate sun-viewing filter glasses or a viewing system. Regular sunglasses are not good enough. Neither are the temporary sunglasses you get at our office after having a dilated eye exam. See the below infographic from the American Academy of Ophthalmology with good information to get you started. Please start making preparations now!