Eyes to the skies: Think safe practices beyond the eclipse

image of solar eclipseThe upcoming total solar eclipse sent people running to local stores and the internet for safety glasses and to their craft closets for do-it-yourself setups. The goal is to see the celestial rarity happening for the first time in decades. And to see it safely.

“We’re telling patients to be sure to wear ISO-certified solar eclipse glasses as deemed safe by the American Academy of Ophthalmology,” said Dr. Abu-Bakar Zafar, who joined Carle and performed its first cornea transplant last year. 

“Also, please watch children closely so they don’t test how dangerous it is to look at the eclipse.”

But people don’t need to freak out. One online story kept that message simple: “Your eyes wouldn't burst into flames. … ‘With the appropriate protection and knowing when it’s safe and not safe to look at the eclipse, you can still enjoy this pretty remarkable celestial event.’”

You might also check out this list of approved solar glasses.

So, while everyone is set to focus on the sky Monday while they take steps to prevent retina damage, it’s a perfect time to focus on some eye-health tips to help prevent some of the most common vision challenges people experience.

young woman with fingers making heart shape over her eyesKeep these tips handy and take action where needed, said Dr. Michael Tsipursky, a vitreo-retinal surgeon at Carle since 2011.

  • Get regular eye exams.
  • Share your family’s health history with your eye care team.
  • Eat colorful fruits and vegetables—not just carrots.
  • Stay at or reach a healthy weight.
  • Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays.
  • Clean and replace your contact lenses as directed.
  • Protect your eyes at work and at play.

“Eyestrain can be serious. You want your eyes to work as well as possible for as long as possible, so we encourage people who use computers and other electronic devices regularly to take regular breaks. Be sure to let your eyes focus on objects farther away from time to time during the workday,” Tsipursky said.

If you have any of these vision problems, or have other concerns, please speak with your eye care team.

  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Double, blurred or cloudy vision
  • Halos, floaters or sudden vision loss
  • Redness, swelling, itching or burning

“Also, distortion during reading or blind spots,” Dr. Tsipursky said. “Testing eyes one eye at a time periodically is important.

He reminds people with diabetes to work continually with their care team to keep their blood sugar under control.

“So many people suffer from chronic conditions—like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol—and they can improve how they feel with help from their healthcare team and some key lifestyle changes,” Dr. Zafar said.

“As with most ailments, the sooner people seek medical help for vision problems, the better we are able to treat them.”

For simple eye issues that include allergies and pink eye, visit Carle.org/InstaCare for a low-cost video chat with a board-certified doctor any time of the day or night.   

In the days ahead Dr. Tsipursky recommends preparation to view the eclipse.

“I would emphasize that viewing the solar eclipse directly without solar glasses at the precise time of the total eclipse is OK, but this is a very short event. Looking at the eclipse without protective gear any other time can damage the retina permanently,” he said.

“Regular sunglasses are not sufficient.”