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CHRISTUS Health: Prioritize eye safety during April solar eclipse

DR. DAMON SMITH

(IRVING, Texas) – With so many people looking to the skies on April 8 to view a rare total solar eclipse, the potential for eye injuries is real.

 

Clinicians caution that eclipse viewers should prioritize eye safety and take steps to ensure their eyes are protected.

 

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Dr. Damon Smith, an ophthalmologist with CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic. “We want people to enjoy the event, but please take precautions, which means using adequate and approved eyewear.”

Solar eclipse glasses should be authorized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) under label ISO 12312, which applies to products intended for direct observation of the sun.

Smith said eclipse viewers should be on the lookout for fake glasses or those that do not come with the proper ISO label.

Failure to use adequate eyewear, he said, could result in solar retinopathy, which occurs when intense light energy injures or damages the retina, which can lead to macular burns, vision loss, blind spots or blurry vision.

“The eye is a magnification system much like a telescope – it is focusing light,” Smith said. “If you are looking at something with as much radiant energy as the sun, the eye is focusing that light on the retina and could lead to problems.”

Smith said that glancing at the sun for a second or two would not likely lead to any damage, but the risk increases if your gaze lasts longer. He adds that during the total eclipse phase, estimated to be anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes long, there is an opportunity there to view the eclipse without glasses.


The time before and after the eclipse phase, he emphasized, must be viewed through approved glasses.

Julie Sperling, CHRISTUS Health injury prevention coordinator for trauma services, said that an eclipse viewer may not realize they have suffered an eye injury because it can take up to a few hours or even days to realize that damage has occurred. Anyone suffering from headaches, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, altered color vision or blurry vision should consult medical care.

Sperling and Smith also encourage parents to pay special attention to children as they often have difficulty keeping eye protection on.

“We want people to have fun and make it an event because we’re likely never going to see it again in our lifetimes,” Smith said. “But do it safely.”

 

About CHRISTUS Health

At CHRISTUS Health, we deliver a complete healing experience that respects the individual. We serve our communities with dignity. And with a good deal of admiration. CHRISTUS Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit system made up of more than 600 centers, including community hospitals, urgent care centers, health insurance companies and physician clinics. We are a community of nearly 50,000 Associates with over 15,000 physicians providing individualized care—and all focused on our charitable mission. Sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Houston and San Antonio and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to every individual we serve.

 

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