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Can you Really Go Blind from Looking at a Solar Eclipse?

Last week, people in South America, Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East saw a solar eclipse. As you may have heard, looking directly at a solar eclipse is very dangerous for your eyes and vision. Nevertheless, this rare event is something that many people want to experience when it does happen. While the next time Americans will have a chance to see a total eclipse will be in August 2017, this is what you need to know to be prepared in protecting your eyes when witnessing this rare event.

Dangers of the Sun

First of all, any time that you stare at the sun, the strong rays can kill cells in your retina. The retina is the light-sensitive area at the back of your eye which receives light from the lens of your eye and sends signals to the optic nerve. If the retina is damaged, this will cause you to go blind. The reason that most people don’t make as big of a deal about this on a regular basis as they do with a solar eclipse is that the sun light is so strong, most people don’t and aren’t able to stare at it. Usually your eye will automatically respond with ways to protect your retina by contracting the pupils, squinting or looking away.

A solar eclipse, however, goes through a number of stages and when the sun is partially eclipsed or most of it is covered, the light does not seem as bright, so the protective reactions from your eye don’t occur. Nevertheless, the part of the sun that is visible is just as strong and intense as looking at the full sun, leaving your eyes vulnerable and unprotected. Further, because a solar eclipse is such a unique event, many people are tempted to look - even when they know they shouldn’t, thinking that a few seconds of exposure can’t really do much harm.

This thinking is unfortunately very wrong.  You may be familiar with the science trick where you can light a paper on fire on the sidewalk using the sun and a magnifying glass. Sunlight is so strong, that when you concentrate the light with a lens, you can start a fire.  The lens of your eye similarly acts to concentrate the sun’s light onto your retina - basically burning it just like the paper in that experiment. A brief encounter -even a few seconds- between your eyes and this intense exposure to the sun is enough to do serious damage.

Usually people don’t realize right away that damage has been done since there is no initial pain with a retinal burn. It can often take several hours for symptoms to manifest and at this point it is already too late.

NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT AN ECLIPSE! In fact, you should never look directly at the sun.

Solutions for Viewing an Eclipse

There are a few options for safely viewing these rare events. First of all, you can purchase special eclipse glasses which are glasses made with specific lenses that block out dangerous wavelengths of light. Alternatively, you can make a pinhole projector which will project a miniature image of the eclipse onto the ground through a piece of cardboard or paper with a hole in it. You can learn how to make a pinhole camera on the NASA website.

So whether you are experiencing a solar eclipse or are out enjoying the warm sunshine, now you know how powerful the sun’s rays really are.

Dear Patients & Friends,

Per recommendations by the CDC and Governor Whitmer, we have closed the office for routine care for at least the next 2 weeks to help contain the spread of COVID-19. We are still here to support you with any eye emergencies or other vision related problems that can be handled while maintaining safe social distancing practices!

Please call us and leave a message if you have any questions or need assistance. I will review all messages and return your call within 24 hours. Things that we may still be able to assist with during this closure:

👓 Emergency visits (by appointment) for pain, infections, foreign bodies in the eye, double vision, loss of vision. PLEASE do not visit urgent care or the emergency room with these issues-they are already overwhelmed!

👓 We will ship directly to your home! For current patients, we may be able to extend expired contact lens prescriptions if needed. Please click to order directly.

👓 Eyeglasses/contact lens pick up: curbside pickup only by appointment. Porch delivery may also be an option if you are unable to leave your home.

👓 Eyeglass replacement or repair if no other vision correction options are available.

If you are able to, please consider supporting local small business, such as us, during this unprecedented time. My family has been enjoying take out dinners from our favorite local restaurants to help them weather this storm!

Most importantly, please be safe! Enjoy this unexpected time with your family. We care deeply for our patients and want to see you back for your eye care once this crisis is over!

Sincerely,

Dr. Luciana Dixon

x

Dear Patients & Friends,

Per recommendations by the CDC and Governor Whitmer, we have closed the office for routine care for at least the next 3 weeks to help contain the spread of COVID-19. We are still here to support you with any eye emergencies or other vision-related problems that can be handled while maintaining safe social distancing practices! Feel free to call us at 248-656-5055 or info@loptiqueoptometry.com, we will regularly be checking our messages.

Please call us and leave a message if you have any questions or need assistance. I will review all messages and return your call within 24 hours. Things that we may still be able to assist with during this closure:

👓 Emergency visits (by appointment) for pain, infections, foreign bodies in the eye, double vision, loss of vision. PLEASE do not visit urgent care or the emergency room with these issues-they are already overwhelmed!

👓 Ordering contact lenses: We will ship directly to your home! For current patients, we may be able to extend expired contact lens prescriptions if needed. Please click to order directly.

👓 Eyeglasses/contact lens pick up: curbside pickup only by appointment. Porch delivery may also be an option if you are unable to leave your home.

👓 Eyeglass replacement or repair if no other vision correction options are available.

If you are able to, please consider supporting local small business, such as us, during this unprecedented time. My family has been enjoying take out dinners from our favorite local restaurants to help them weather this storm!

Most importantly, please be safe! Enjoy this unexpected time with your family. We care deeply for our patients and want to see you back for your eye care once this crisis is over!

Sincerely,

Dr. Luciana Dixon