Planning to watch the upcoming solar eclipse? Here’s how to keep your eyes safe

FILE - This March 9, 2016, file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. A solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, is set to star in several special broadcasts on TV and online. PBS, ABC, NBC, NASA Television and the Science Channel are among the outlets planning extended coverage of the first solar eclipse visible across the United States in 99 years. (AP Photo/File)

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With Monday’s total solar eclipse right around the corner, the millions of Americans planning to watch the phenomenon will want to make sure they do it safely.

Speaking exclusively with Rare, Eyecare Center of Leesburg‘s Dr. Greg McGrew, O.D. provided some insight on what looking at a solar eclipse can do to your eyes and gave some tips on how to protect them during the event.

“It isn’t any more dangerous to look at an eclipse than it is to look at the sun under normal circumstances, but the eclipse tempts us to look at the sun for more than a second or two — something we normally would not do,” he explained. “Also, people may get a false sense of security thinking that since the sun is partially blocked, it is safe to look at it.”

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While it may not be anymore dangerous than looking at the sun on an average day, staring at a solar eclipse can still cause serious damage to your eyes.

“Staring at the sun overwhelms the retina in the back of the eye with light energy and essentially burns the tissue,” Dr. McGrew spelled out what exactly happens to your eyes when you subject it so intensely to the sun’s rays. “Like any other minor burn that can heal without long-lasting effects. Unfortunately, just like with any other burn, if it is severe enough, it can create scar tissue, and if you scar the center of your retina, you will permanently lose clarity in your vision.”

Some additional short-term and long-term eye injuries you can sustain from looking at a solar eclipse are:

  • Mild burn
  • Blurriness or blankness in the central vision that can last from hours to days
  • Solar retinopathy, which can cause permanent blurriness and even disqualify you from getting a driver’s license

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So how can you still enjoy the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States in nearly 100 years? There are a few things you should — and shouldn’t — do:

  • Only look directly at the eclipse with eclipse glasses like the ones shown below
  • Do not view the eclipse through conventional sunglasses, binoculars, a telescope or a camera
  • If you don’t have eclipse glasses, take a selfie with the eclipse to catch a peek at it
  • Do not take a video of the eclipse or else you’ll risk ruining your phone’s camera optics

Courtesy of Dr. Greg McGrew

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