Solar Eclipse

On Aug. 21 a solar eclipse will be visible across North America, and several optometry organizations have offered advice on how to view the event safely.

According to the American Optometric Association, it is safe to look directly at the sun only during the totality of the eclipse, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s face. This will occur for only a few minutes in certain parts of the country that fall on the total solar eclipse path.

For safe viewing in other parts of the country or during other phases of the eclipse, the AOA recommends special-purpose filters, such as eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Looking at the solar eclipse, except during totality, can cause solar retinopathy, which may not be recognized until after the damage occurs, according to a press release from Prevent Blindness. Additionally, distorted vision or altered color vision may result from looking at a solar eclipse without proper eye protection.

Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO, President of the American Association of OptometryJoseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO, president of the American Academy of Optometry and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board, warned that homemade filters or sunglasses, even extremely dark ones, are not suitable protection during a solar eclipse.

Rachel Bishop, MD, chief of the National Eye Institute Consult Service, said in a press release from the institute. “Devices such as pinhole projectors allow you to watch an indirect image, which is safe and still exciting.”

This is the first solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years and is expected to be the most viewed ever, Shovlin said.