Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baltimore Eye Doctors Recommend Solar Eclipse Eye Safety


On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun, or a “solar eclipse.” “When you see this phenomenon, you will quickly appreciate that it is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights. However, it must be viewed safely and certain precautions are necessary so as not to be exposed to potentially serious eye injury,” commented Arturo Betancourt, M.D., Medical Director of Baltimore Washington Eye Center. 

What is a Solar Eclipse?
During a solar eclipse the moon will pass between the sun and the earth, actually blocking the sun either partially or completely depending on where you are viewing it from. The blocking of the sun will last for up to three hours from beginning to end depending on your viewing location. The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979. This event turns day into night and makes the normally hidden solar corona-the sun’s outer atmosphere- visible! Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is one of nature’s most awesome sights. In the Baltimore, Maryland area, we will have a partial eclipse, about 83%. The start time is 1:18 pm, the maximum eclipse view will be at 2:42 pm, with the end of the event occurring at 4:01 pm.

How Can You See It?
Beware of the risk that viewing a solar eclipse can present if you do not take the necessary eye safety precautions. You never want to look directly at the sun without appropriate protection except during totality. “Retinal burns, called “solar retinitis” or “solar retinopathy” can be produced by direct gazing at the sun. This rather serious problem is caused by the thermal effects of the visible and near infrared rays focused on the pigment structure behind the retina. “We almost never see patients with solar retinopathy because the normal eye will tolerate only fleeting glances at the sunbut it can be fairly common during a solar eclipse,” explained Brad Spagnolo, M.D. of Baltimore Washington Eye Center.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. “To be safe to view a solar eclipse, the eclipse gasses must meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products,” explained Dr. Spagnolo.

To learn more, please call Baltimore Washington Eye Center at 800-495-3937, visit Baltimore Washington Eye CenterGoogle+ or facebook.com/baltimorewashingtoneyecenter.