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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Eyeing up an eclipse? Enjoy the experience while preserving your vision.

Solar eclipses are rare and awe-inspiring events, but they can also have life-altering effects on your vision.

"Looking directly at the sun can cause long-term retinal damage and even blindness, so safety is important to enjoy this amazing event,” explains Herbert Ingraham, MD, an ophthalmologist and director of the Geisinger Eye Institute. “Make sure you take all the necessary precautions to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB radiation."

Here’s what Dr. Ingraham suggests to make the most of this natural phenomenon while keeping your eyes safe.

Don’t look at the sun without eclipse glasses

As a kid, you were probably warned not to look at the sun. Eclipse glasses, however, are made especially for doing just that.

Eclipse glasses lenses are made with special black polymer, which is a flexible resin infused with carbon. This makes eclipse glasses 100,000 times darker than sunglasses and able to keep your eyes safe from damaging ultraviolet and infrared radiation.

Only use glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. Be on the lookout for counterfeit glasses — they won’t offer the protection necessary for your eyes.

The American Astronomical Society offers tips on choosing eclipse glasses.

Skip homemade eclipse viewers

It’s not uncommon for DIY eclipse-viewing ideas to pop up across the Internet and social media — from sunglasses and welding masks to foil, candy wrappers and even reflections off CDs. They might seem like an easy, cost-effective way to view the event, but most of these ideas do more harm than good.

"DIY glasses and other ideas you might’ve seen on social media offer no protection and can actually magnify the rays of the sun, making viewing the eclipse seriously harmful,” says Dr. Ingraham. "Very dark welding masks like a 14 or 15 shade can be used, but they’re not recommended as a substitute for eclipse glasses since it isn’t their designed use."

Don’t use unfiltered binoculars, telescopes or cameras

While you might want to get a closer look at the eclipse, you could hurt yourself. Using regular binoculars, telescopes or cameras can burn your retinas, causing permanent vision loss.

Be sure to have proper lenses and filters designed for solar use if you plan to use any magnifying instrument.

Also, be aware that looking through a telescope with eclipse glasses can ruin the glasses because of the light magnification.

Enjoy the moment and put down the camera

Lucky enough to be in the path of totality, where the sun is completely blocked out? A total solar eclipse only lasts about two-and-a-half minutes — so take the time to really look around and enjoy it. During the event, you may be able to see stars, planets and more. The temperature may drop, and you’ll notice a strange mixture of day, night and twilight.

While some people may try to take pictures, cameras are limited in their ability to capture an eclipse’s brilliance. Instead of trying to get the perfect shot, take the time to be present in the moment.

Don’t take your glasses off during an eclipse

Depending on where and when you’re watching an eclipse, the sun may not be totally covered. 

"Even though it may darken for a few minutes, you shouldn’t remove your eclipse glasses because you could still damage your eyes," said Dr. Ingraham.

Always check the path of totality for the eclipse you’re watching. If you’re in the path, you can remove your glasses briefly when the sun is totally eclipsed. Then, look around and let it all sink in.


Next steps: 

Learn about eye care at Geisinger
Here’s why you should wear sunglasses year-round
Find out what’s causing your dry eyes

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