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Dr. Dien-Fong: The Solar Eclipse and Your Eyes

Julie Dien-Fong is an optometrist at The Vision Gallery in North Edmonton.

The solar eclipse is coming up this Monday August 21st and I want to help keep everyone’s eyes safe!

Did you know?

Did you know it is never safe to stare at the sun without proper protection? Permanent vision loss can happen from as little as 100 seconds of looking directly at the sun. Usually, the full brightness of the sun causes us tear up, close our eyes and look away after just a few seconds.  That’s how we don’t accidentally damage our vision on sunny days!

Why is the solar eclipse more risky?

The reason why a solar eclipse is more dangerous than normal is that it is an event that invites curious onlookers to look directly at the sun for a longer than normal period. Not only that, the partial blockage of sun means that the overall brightness is less and our natural reflex to look away is not as readily triggered. Although the brightness is less, there are still harmful energy rays that can damage the eye. What is scary is that while the injury is occurring, there will be no pain or immediate vision loss. The vision loss typically shows up several hours after the event.

Protect yourself properly.

The solar eclipse will occur in Edmonton between 10:20AM to 12:45PM.

If you’re determined to experience the eclipse outside, you can use solar eclipse glasses or welding filters 12-14 and wear these anytime you’re checking out the sun. Please make sure that your eclipse glasses meet the requirements of ISO 12312-3 and were from a reputable source. There were reports of fake ones being sold and those will not protect you. Also please make sure that the lenses are not scratched or damaged.

To answer a common question, regular sunglasses are not protective enough for looking directly at the sun. Furthermore, the sun’s energy can be even more damaging through a camera lens or telescope without proper protective filters.

Online streaming: the safest way to view the eclipse.

It is definitely an exciting natural event and because it occurs so rarely, everyone would love to witness it.  However, because of the real risk of vision loss – I would strongly suggest watching the live stream of the eclipse online instead of outside.  NASA will be streaming the eclipse from a position in the path of totality – so we can witness a FULL solar eclipse.

I typically encourage my patients and my family to enjoy the outdoors rather than spend time on a screen.  But I’ll tell you now that my kids and I will definitely be indoors and watching the eclipse online.  The full eclipse will be more unique than a partial eclipse and most importantly – the screen images will be eye safe.

https://www.nasa.gov/eclipselive-info
https://eclipse.aas.org/sites/eclipse.aas.org/files/AAS-Chou-Solar-Eclipse-Eye-Safety.pdf

Please NOTE:

I mentioned above that it could take as little as 100 seconds to cause damage.  This timing was reported from people who had lost vision after previous solar eclipses.  This DOES NOT mean that you are safe to look at the sun up to 100 seconds.  It’s simply not known how much exposure is too much for any one individual.  Children are at much higher risk as their young clear eyes transmits more light energy than adult eyes do.  Err on the side of caution and assume that ANY direct sun viewing can possibly lead to vision loss for anyone at anytime of the year.  Keep the vision that you value and don’t gaze at the sun 🙂

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