Even glancing at Eclipse without protection can cause permanent damage

Dr Corrie Weitzel, OD MS, Cole Eye Institute Cleveland Clinic
Dr Corrie Weitzel, OD MS, Cole Eye Institute Cleveland Clinic

ELYRIA, OH (WOIO) - Looking directly at the eclipse without proper eye protection, even for a few glances, can cause permanent eye damage.

Dr. Corrie Weitzel, an optometrist with the Cole Eye Center at the Cleveland Clinic, told Cleveland 19 that she is worried people might not take the risk of eye damage seriously.

"I am concerned," said Weitzel. "It's been a long time since we've had an eclipse that has affected the entire country, coast to coast, so this is a great concern of ours."

Weitzel said looking directly at the sun, even glancing at it can cause permanent damage. She said those glances are cumulative, so it doesn't take much to cause permanent retinal damage.

Weitzel said there's no way to make homemade eclipse glasses, and regular sunglasses aren't enough.

"[Sunglasses] can still let that dangerous, high intensity sunlight in, and damage the central part of the vision," said Weitzel. "There's no pain receptors in the eye within the retina, so if the damage is occurring you might not be aware that it's occurring."

The damage that can be caused is called solar or eclipse retinopathy. Weitzel said she has seen cases of it in her office, and showed Cleveland 19 that on an eye scan it looks like little black marks.

Weitzel said properly certified eclipse glasses, or a welding helmet at a level 14 provide appropriate protection to watch the eclipse.

"We are trying to educate all of our patients that sunglasses are not enough, even glancing repeatedly the damage can be cumulative," said Weitzel. "Eclipse and solar retinopathy is a very real thing and causes real damage and it's not worth it."

Weitzel said symptoms of solar or eclipse retinopathy include seeing after images, having distorted vision and possible permanent vision loss or even blindness.

She said if anyone who experiences these symptoms should see an eye doctor as soon as possible.

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