Environment

Here’s how you can protect your eyes from damage during the total eclipse

Ellie Nydick of New York City, Anne and Mike Barrett of Hazlet, New Jersey and Anthony Williams of Miami all watch the solar eclipse at Key Biscayne on February 26, 1998. Although those in South Florida will only see a 72 percent eclipse this year — the path sprawls from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina — looking into the partial eclipse can still be dangerous to the naked eye.
Ellie Nydick of New York City, Anne and Mike Barrett of Hazlet, New Jersey and Anthony Williams of Miami all watch the solar eclipse at Key Biscayne on February 26, 1998. Although those in South Florida will only see a 72 percent eclipse this year — the path sprawls from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina — looking into the partial eclipse can still be dangerous to the naked eye. Miami Herald File

In two short weeks, the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s atmosphere will be visible. It’s a total eclipse, and it’s what NASA calls one of nature’s “most awe-inspiring sights.”

Although those in the Miami area will only see a 72 percent eclipse — the path sprawls from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina — looking into the partial eclipse can still be dangerous to the naked eye.

Dr. Harry Flynn, a 39-year ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, said the sun rays can cause damage to the eye when it focuses on the retina, burns it and creates a permanent scar in the center of vision.

Flynn said the burn can damage all layers of the retina. The burn often results in permanent and irreversible loss of eyesight.

“The reason for this emphasis on eye protection is that people who are uninformed or perhaps children may be fascinated by the event and look at the sun for a period of time without understanding the risk and the potential for damage to their vision,” said Flynn, who also teaches about the retina and vitreous at University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

Tips to stay safe:

  • Use special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. (Refer to the American Astronomical Society for authorized eclipse glasses compliant with the international safety standards.)
  • Don’t use homemade filters or normal sunglasses
  • Don’t look at the eclipse through a camera, telescope or binoculars.

See a doctor if you:

  • Notice a sudden drop in vision.
  • See distorted shapes and images.
  • Feel like objects are smaller than they are in real life.
  • See blind spots or floaters.

Solar damage wipes out macular pigments, which can cause permanent vision loss.

To prevent retinal damage:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses with UV 400 blocker.
  • Take vitamins C and E as well as zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.
  • Eat foods like spinach, egg yolk and red bell pepper.
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