TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN: BEWARE OF THE 21st OF AUGUST
Written by: Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FACS
The US will be experiencing its first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.
And researchers said it may be the most watched, best observed solar eclipse in history.
But this most-watched observation could affect your sight.
Looking at a solar eclipse causes a photochemical injury to the retina in the back of the eye. This happens because of a biochemical reaction that occurs with the crucial layer of the retina, the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) and also the photoreceptors (rods and cones) sustaining damage.
At times, the sun gazer is fortunate and this damage is reversible. Tragically, and more commonly, the damage is irreversible causing a mild to moderate to severe permanent loss of vision, usually correlating strongly with the duration of exposure.
Prevention is simple and is of paramount importance. Sunglasses do not provide protection.
All you need to do is wear glasses that conform to the industry standard which is ISO 12312- Any glasses or goggles or disposable cardboard lenses that protect MUST have the designation that they are ISO 12312-2 approved. Beware of counterfeit glasses which have been proliferating on the internet.
Without these glasses, you could sustain retinal damage from the solar eclipse induced toxicity.
How will you know?
Within a few hours of exposure, you will notice loss of vision. Objects may appear unusually distorted, and frequently a blind sport will be present that at times can be very large, usually effecting the central vision or very close to the central vision. Typically, there will be partial recovery within three to six months, with a small percentage of those afflicted sustaining a total recovery.
So who are the people most at risk for solar eclipse induced toxicity?
1. The Male Daredevil: Generally, 15-30 years old, these risk takers like to push the envelope physically and mentally, even into dangerous territory, cognizant that damage may be sustained. Frequently they are utilizing excessive prescription medications and/or illicit drugs at the time of viewing the solar eclipse which stirs up the macho ego and causes a decline in inhibitions. Unfortunately viewing the solar eclipse unprotected for even seconds can leave these individuals with a lifetime of diminished vision, productivity, etc.
2. The Young and Restlessly Unaware: A smaller group of patients are the elementary school or middle school age children who do not know better. Because the retina does not have nerve fibers, there is no pain experienced during the act of staring at the solar eclipse and therefore there is no warning to immediately stop this exceedingly dangerous activity.
So here is my advice.
Take precautions and “be aware.” Your sight is irreplaceable while the experience of watching the next eclipse will return in six and a half years.
For more information or for an emergency appointment related to the eclipse, or unrelated, please call (954)894-1500 or visit our website.