Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Staring at Solar Eclipse Can Damage Your Eyes, Loyola Ophthalmologist Warns

MAYWOOD, IL – On Monday, August 21, residents of North America will be treated to a total solar eclipse – the first time the contiguous U.S. will witness a total solar eclipse since 1979.

While the desire may be to stand outside and stare at the rare celestial event, Loyola Medicine ophthalmologist and retina specialist Manthan Shah, MD, warns of the serious potential for permanent damage to the retinas if done improperly.

"The main concern is solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye when staring directly at the sun," Dr. Shah said. "Looking directly at a solar eclipse is the most common cause of solar retinopathy. The radiation from the sun is so concentrated it damages the retina."

  • While those who experience solar retinopathy don't feel pain from the exposure, they can experience:
  • Difficulty seeing shapes and details of objects
  • Discomfort with bright light
  • A blind spot in your central vision

"In the immediate aftermath, it causes a central visual disturbance," Dr. Shah said. "Most people recover from that, but some can be left with central scotomas (blind spot) and sometimes have permanently decreased visual acuity."

The American Academy of Ophthalmology said it is safe to look at the eclipse when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s face, but viewing even a little of the sun peeking out from behind the moon is enough to cause irreversible damage to your vision. They recommend only viewing the eclipse with specialized eclipse glasses. Normal sunglasses do not protect the eye.

"While the solar eclipse is a rare event to experience, it's best to make sure you view it safely," Dr. Shah said. "Retina damage is a serious consequence."

For more information about the solar eclipse and eye safety, Dr. Shah recommends visiting the resources provided by NASA.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.