Eye Doctors Issue Eye Health Safety Advice Ahead of Solar Eclipse
Avoid ‘Selfies’ and regular sunglasses will not offer adequate protection
The dos and don’ts of viewing the upcoming solar eclipse
A solar eclipse which will see most of northern Europe, including Ireland fade into near darkness for several minutes will take place this Friday morning, March 20 2015. It is expected that the partial eclipse will take place between approximately 8.20 and 10.30am in Ireland, with its peak at around 9.30am (depending on your location in the country) which will block out about 90% of the sunlight. A solar eclipse is a rare occasion but it is also potentially very harmful to your eyes if viewed directly.
Eye Doctor and spokesperson for the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO), Dr Patricia Quinlan has the following advice;
“There is always huge anticipation ahead of a solar eclipse but it is really important for people to be aware of the damage that can be caused by looking directly at the sun with the naked eye, and most especially during an eclipse.
“Staring directly at the sun can permanently scar the retina, the area at the back of the eye responsible for vision. After a solar eclipse episode, ophthalmologists have seen patients who present with solar burns to the retina and or macula which is termed solar retinopathy or solar maculopathy. Solar burns to the retina are not painful and the loss of vision is not always immediate but if damage is done, it is unfortunately irreversible.
Eye doctors would like to remind people to take the necessary safety measures which are very simple but extremely effective at protecting our UV sensitive eyes.”
Commenting on the use of smart phone cameras to capture the phenomenon, Dr Quinlan said,
"The last time people will have witnessed an eclipse in Ireland is 15 years ago when no-one really had a smart phone or took selfies. There might be the temptation to look around the frame of the camera phone while lining up a shot or for a selfie, a person may inadvertently glance over their shoulder to make sure the shot is aligned so best to try and avoid.”
The ICO advise that extreme caution must be exercised where children are concerned. Children should not be allowed to look directly at the sun at any time. The potential damage is usually more severe because the child's natural lens is so clear that it lets more ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the back of the eye.
- Don’t look directly at the sun with the naked eye or even with sunglasses on – they don’t offer sufficient protection.
- Don’t watch it directly through a telescope, binoculars, camera or camera-phone. Even if you are just lining up the projection, this still puts you at risk.
- Don’t attempt a ‘Selfie’ on your camera-phone - glancing at the sun, even briefly can lead to damage of the retina
- Don’t view through smoked glass, stacked sunglasses, polarised shades nor photographic filters.
Do enjoy the eclipse by:
- Looking at sun indirectly using the old-fashioned, home-made pinhole projection method. This involves putting a hole in a piece of cardboard, and holding the cardboard up – with your back to the sun – so that an image of the sun is projected onto another piece of paper or card. This works well using a cardboard box, and will allow you to see the progress of the eclipse without damaging your eyes
- Going to one of the many viewing events being run by astronomy clubs and other organisations around the country to watch the eclipse where experienced astronomers will be on hand with specially adapted telescopes through which it will be possible to view the eclipse safely.
- Viewing livestreams available online through which you can watch the event.
For more information and tips on eye health, visit the Irish College of Ophthalmologists website www.eyedoctors.ie
 Dr Patricia Quinlan is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Blackrock Clinic, Dublin, specialising in the treatment of retinal disease.
19th March 2015