Optometrist: There are 'serious risks' to watching the eclipse — even with eclipse glasses

An Ohio optometrist issued his plea last Friday: Please, don't watch the solar eclipse outside. And if you do watch it, for vision's sake, do it perfectly.

Dr. Michael Schecter fears his office in suburban Columbia will see patients who wake up after Monday's much-anticipated solar eclipse with irreversibly blurry vision, he said.

"There are serious risks associated with viewing a solar eclipse directly, even when using solar filter glasses," Schecter warned in a Facebook post that went up last Friday.

His admonition shot across social media this week, garnering nearly half a million shares.

While eclipse glasses offering a 100% filter of harmful rays exist, Schecter stressed that they can still result in permanent vision loss if not used perfectly — a warning backed by NASA.

The vast majority of Americans won't see a total eclipse next Monday but a partial one. The moon won't cover 100% of the sun in those places, Schecter noted, but it will cover enough to let you look directly into the eclipse without much pain — and that's the problem.Just seconds of exposure to a partial eclipse can "burn a blind spot right to your most precious central vision," he said in the post.

Such damage doesn't reveal itself for a day or two, Schecter told USA TODAY, causing blurriness he said can take months or years to fully heal if it does at all.

Schecter wrote the post after discussing the eclipse in a Facebook group for optometrists, he said. His main concern is for children viewing the eclipse without thorough supervision.

Eclipse glasses render everything dark except the eclipse itself, which could tempt little ones to peek over them to see "what's really going on," Schecter said, and that's where damage can occur.

"One failure, just one, where education and supervision fail, will have such a devastating consequence," he wrote.

Schecter said he knows some might call him overly cautious, but keeping the risks in mind amid all the excitement could save someone's eyes, he said: “Being a little bit nervous about it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Presuming your eclipse glasses aren't defective or fake, NASA warns damage can still result from improper use. That includes peering through a telescope, camera or binoculars while wearing the glasses — the sun's concentrated rays can damage lenses —and removing glasses before turning fully away from the eclipse.

(Here are the five companies making safety-certified eclipse glasses, and where to find them.)

Schecter prefers viewing a partial eclipse using a classic pinhole camera, he said, but even then children still might peek.

"Watch it on television if you do not have proper protection," he said.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment