Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you’ve likely heard that this coming Monday morning, August 21st, there will be a solar eclipse, a rare event when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth blocking Earth’s view of the sun. The last time we had a total solar eclipse in North America was in 1979 and the next expected eclipse will be in 2024.
While the solar eclipse is super exciting and here in Northern Nevada we’ll see about 83% of the sun blocked, we need to keep in mind that viewing eclipses can be damaging to our eyes. We urge you to obtain a pair of viewers designed specifically for viewing an eclipse. Looking at the eclipse without the viewers, or even standard sunglasses, can cause significant damage to the eyes.
While in Reno/Sparks we’ll only be able to see about 15% of the sun, that is enough to cause permanent eye damage. Even taking quick glances at the sun can still be harmful.
The damage that can occur is called solar retinopathy and it occurs when the bright light from the sun floods the retina on the back of the eyeball. Essentially, the sun can burn a hole in your retinal tissues which can be permanent or temporary. The damage is often painless so people don’t realize what they’ve done.
It can often take a few hours or a few days after viewing the eclipse to realize you’ve done damage. Symptoms can include; loss of central vision, distorted vision, or altered color vision. If you notice any of these after Monday’s eclipse, be sure to give us a call.
So, of course, the safest best is to use the safety viewers created for this event. But, we know that these are hard to come by now. Other options for safely viewing the eclipse include looking through Number 14 welder’s glass, making a pinhole projector (check out this video on how to make a projector using a pizza box), or attend one of these local eclipse viewing parties in Reno, Tahoe and Carson City.
-Dr. Daniel Rowan, OD