HEI Doctors Push Eye Safety as Priority for Solar Eclipse Preparation

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Dr. Brian Fowler (Photo provided by Hamilton Eye Institute)

The solar eclipse on August 21 is an exciting event, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t take precautions to protect your eyesight. During a solar eclipse, the moon will partially or fully cover the sun. During this event, the sky will turn darker, causing the pupils to dilate, increasing the amount of sunlight that enters the eye.

“No matter what you have heard, no amount of time is safe to look directly at the sun,” said Brian Fowler, MD, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and vice chair of Clinical Operations at the Hamilton Eye Institute at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “Looking directly at the sun can lead to permanent vision loss and this can happen during an eclipse or on a regular sunny day.”

The eye focuses light on the back of the eye. If sunlight is continuously viewed, it causes a burn in the fovea, the area in the eye that affects central vision. “If the damage is less severe, it may cause swelling that usually resolves over a few days,” said James Fleming, MD, Philip M. Lewis Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Hamilton Eye Institute.

Dr. James Fleming (Photo provided by Hamilton Eye Institute)

Regular sunglasses will not suffice for viewing the eclipse. Instead, get eclipse glasses, which block up to 90 percent of UV light. “They are available at many stores around the city, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and for online purchase. NASA has a great online resource that lists five companies certified to distribute solar eclipse glasses,” Dr. Fowler said. For more information, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.

“Here at the Hamilton Eye Institute, we are into the safety of vision,” said Dr. Fleming.” We are all looking forward to the solar eclipse and highly recommend wearing eye protection to view this awe-inspiring sight of the eclipse.”