Topeka optometrist explains eye damage from solar eclipse

Ashley Moretti, Candace Wright

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) The excitement for the once in a lifetime solar eclipse, is hard to contain. At this point, we all know that you need to have the special eclipse glasses to safely view Monday’s historic event. Even though they’ve been flying off the shelves, do you really know just how damaging it can be for your eyes, if you don’t use these glasses?

According to Dr. Randal Dyck, an optometrist at Family Eye Care of Topeka, looking directly at the sun can be damaging.

“It sounds kind of simple to say, don’t look at the sun. We all know that,” Dyck said. “But when the moon is blocking the sun 99%, there may be some that will be tempted to look up and see what’s going on.  But eventualy, that 1% can actually cause permanent damage to the eye.”

Dyck says, the permanent damage done is initially similar to a sunburn.

“In basic terms, it burns the eye.  The sun is obviously very powerful,” Dyck said. “It heats the entire earth and provides sunlight for us; similar to getting a sunburn, when you’re out in the sun for hours.  But with the sun, it’s so concentrated with the eyes trying to focus, that a lot of times it will burn the back part of the eye, which is called the retina.”

Dyck explains that the retina is a unique tissue in that it signals and interprets light and sends the message to the brain that lets the brain know what the eye is taking a picture of. The retina actually doesn’t sense pain.  You may feel pain when we look at something bright, but that’s from the iris; the colored part of the eye trying to constrict very fast to block the sun from coming in.

That’s why using a pair of eclipse glasses is important.

“The glasses actually block out the harmful rays that would burn the eye. So it does allow you to safely view the sun,” explained Dyck.

Many of you may have already gotten your solar eclipse glasses, but how do you know if they’re NASA approved and certified?  With many fraudulent glasses being sold, knowing what to look for is important.

According to Dyck, there should be a stamp on the inside of the solar eclipse glasses that will say, “ISO certified 12312-2.” These are certified by NASA.

So make sure you double check your glasses, before looking to the sky on Monday.

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