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What everyone needs to know about viewing the upcoming eclipse

By Zack Steele
So for the first time since 1979 Americans have the chance to be witness a total solar eclipse, and your friendly neighborhood eye doctor has fielded many questions about what it means and how it can affect your eyes.

Zack Steele

First, in case you’ve been avoiding social media and the news for a month the eclipse is set to take place on Monday. The best viewing area in our part of the world will be somewhere over the western North Carolina and North Georgia mountains. However, we should get a pretty good view from central Alabama if we don’t have our what is almost daily afternoon thunderstorm.
The question I mainly get is how to prevent damage to the eyes and what sort of damage it may cause. I want to be very clear that an eclipse can cause damage to the central part of the retina if precautions are not taken to prevent solar retinopathy, a very real condition.
Solar retinopathy can occur without an eclipse event, if you decide to stare directly into the bright sun.
If you were to try to do this, you would immediately find that your blink reflex would kick in immediately
and you would have a hard time staring.
What makes an eclipse dangerous is that the sun is blocked by the moon, and the majority of the light is blocked out, making it easier to stare. However, harmful rays of light are still emitted from around the edges, and are more concentrated. But since they are emitted in almost a direct ray, they can be much more dangerous. Think of it as a light being emitted through a pinhole, or a magnifying glass directly
into your eyes. Combine this with the fact your pupils will be ever so slightly more dilated due to the fact that there is not as much light outside because of the moon’s shadow effect, and you have a potential dangerous situation.
Solar retinopathy can cause permanent damage to the eye, and the result is usually akin to the symptoms of macular degeneration. Basically what I am saying is this is not to be taken lightly. Madison
City schools have already decided to close early on Monday, with that part of the state expected to have 97 percent of the sun blocked by the moon.
With all this I still think you should go out and enjoy the eclipse. Special glasses are available everywhere online and at most eye doctors’ offices. Welding goggles also will do the trick. If you happen to be stuck outside without these glasses, wearing sunglasses and not looking directly up should prevent serious damage, but to be safe, I would advocate wearing the special glasses available. Check out aoa.org to find reputable places to purchase the paper viewing glasses, which run about $4 for a pair.

Dr. Zack Steele is a graduate of UAB’s School of Optometry. He practices in Trussville and serves on the
Trussville City Council.

Comments

  1. Related: Trussville elementary schools will now not let your kids view the eclipse, a once in a lifetime experience, because they are afraid you will sue. Only applies to families with two working parents that can’t take their kids out of school.

  2. It’s because there’s not enough teachers to make sure each kid is not taking their glasses off and looking at the sun. You’ve always got a handful of kids that if you tell them not to do something they are going to do it anyway.
    They are going to teach them what an eclipse is and let them watch it live on tv which is the most sensible thing to do unlike a lot of schools that are closing which is ridiculous.

  3. “live on tv” Really? I’ve witnessed several total eclipses. It’s about the light around you changing, the trill and quieting of birdlife, the odd chill to the air as the sunlight drops like no normal twilight or cloud cover,the crescents forming in the dappled shadows under trees, creating pinhole cameras with your hands to project the sun upon the earth.Nothing I’ve seen on tv recreates that in the least.

    “Don’t look directly at the sun, you’ll go blind” certainly has worked for generations who have never experienced an eclipse. Why not try that now, and afford Alabama kids this, rather than quail in ignorance?

  4. We don’t live in that generation anymore. Sorry. Society today can’t handle it. No one has any common sense. Hate to break it to you.
    If you want your kids to experience it live keep them home and have at it.
    I agree with you by the way but the world we live in today has ruined such moments due to ignorance and the schools can’t fight that beast.

  5. I’m glad my 5 year old’s teacher isn’t taking her outside for it. It’s not worth the risk to her vision. I might take her out but I haven’t decided yet because she’s 5 and probably wouldn’t really remember it. Joshua you are on every post I’ve seen complaining about this. Would you like me to keep your kids that day and send them outside to watch it?

  6. Zygi Hudson says:

    What’s this guy got to do with the sun and moon?

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