December 14, 2017
Health & Fitness
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See The Eclipse Safely

Dr. Allan Rutzen - Rutzen Eye Specialists and Laser Center
Dr. Allan Rutzen - Rutzen Eye Specialists and Laser Center's picture
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August 10, 2017

Because I am an ophthalmologist, people have been asking me how to view the upcoming solar eclipse safely. By taking some simple precautions, you should be able to enjoy this rare celestial event.

As you have heard by now, the solar eclipse will be visible on Monday, August 21. People in a narrow path approximately 70 miles wide that extends from Oregon to South Carolina will be able to see a total solar eclipse. In Maryland, as well as most of the northern hemisphere, a partial solar eclipse will be visible.

During the eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and the earth, partly blocking the sun's light. Everyone knows that looking directly at the sun can cause damage to one's eyes. Looking at the partially eclipsed sun with the naked eye can also cause vision loss. This damage is called "eclipse blindness" or solar retinopathy and is the result of the way the eye focuses the sun's intense light on the retina, causing damage to the photoreceptor cells that transmit the images we see to the brain.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Astronomical Society offer these five tips:

·         Use specially designed solar eclipse glasses or viewers to block the sun's harmful rays. Regular sunglasses, even the darkest ones, are not strong enough to protect your eyes. Only five manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and solar viewers meet international safety standards: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, TSE 17, and Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar silver/gold film only).

·         Inspect your eclipse glasses or viewers, and don't use them if they are scratched or damaged.

·         View the eclipse through No. 14 welder's glass, which is much darker than the protection arc welders typically wear.

·         Use solar filters on camera lenses, binoculars and telescopes. If you're uncertain how to use these devices with solar filters, seek the advice of an expert.

·         Do not use solar eclipse glasses to look through a camera, binoculars, or telescope. The sun can melt the filter and cause damage to your eyes.

Another method for viewing the eclipse safely is called pinhole projection. This can be done by using a small hole in a piece of cardboard or using the spaces between your fingers to project a small image onto a piece of paper or the ground. It is important to realize that this does not mean looking directly at the sun through a pinhole. For more information about pinhole projection, see eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

Looking directly at the sun without appropriate protection leads to vision loss, like a blind spot that mainly affects central vision, the most important part of vision that we all use to see details in activities such as driving, viewing television, looking at computers and reading. As an ophthalmologist, I have cared for patients who experienced vision problems after staring at the sun. Sometimes vision will improve over time, but often, permanent vision problems can persist, making driving, reading and other activities difficult.

By taking a few precautions, you should be able to safely enjoy the beauty of the eclipse.

Dr. Allan Rutzen is an ophthalmologist who specializes in medical and surgical conditions that are in the front of the eye. He has particular expertise in cataract and laser eye surgery. If you have questions or if you would like an eye examination, call Rutzen Eye Specialists & Laser Center at 410-975-0090 for an appointment. His office is located in Severna Park at 489 Ritchie Highway, Suite 200. Visit www.rutzeneye.com for more information.


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