How to safely watch the solar eclipse - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

How to safely watch the solar eclipse

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Eye specialists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics offer tips on how to safely watch the solar eclipse on August 21st.

While watching the solar eclipse can be an extraordinary experience, doctors urge doing so the wrong way could cause severe vision loss.

Similar to staring at the sun, watching the solar eclipse without eye protection can seriously damage your eyes. For this reason, doctors suggest proper eye protection when observing the eclipse to avoid damaging your retinas permanently. 

“Solar retinopathy is a very serious condition. Staring at the sun—even for a very short period of time—without the right eye protection can damage your retina and lead to permanent vision loss,” explains Karen Gehrs, MD, an ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal diseases at UI Hospitals and Clinics.

For those who want to watch, but want to avoid any slightest risk. Gehrs recommends watching the eclipse indirectly. She says the safest way to view an eclipse is to watch it on a television or computer monitor indoors. 

Gehrs warns that those those who choose to use eclipse glasses or solar filters should have the appropriate protective filters sufficient to prevent solar retinopathy. If an incorrect filter is used, a retinal burn can still occur.  

Doctors suggest that if a solar filter is not available, the safest way to watch a solar eclipse is by turning your back to the sun and watching a projection through devices like a pinhole projector or watching an internet or news program that is tracking the eclipse. 

“It is important to know that regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, cannot protect your eyes from damage caused by looking directly at the sun. Only certified filters will provide protection,” Gehrs cautions.

Information on specific certified filters can be found on the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.

Gehrs explains that the retina is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye, and solar retinopathy occurs when sunlight burns and potentially scars the retina.

Symptoms include central graying and fuzziness of vision. Gehrs says that once a solar burn occurs, there is no treatment, and nothing can be done to undo the damage-similar to the damage from a laser pointer. 

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