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Published on August 17, 2017

Don’t Get Burned Watching the Eclipse

As people throughout North America anticipate and prepare for an eclipse of the sun on Monday, August 21, the eye doctors at Armstrong George Cohen Will Ophthalmology are reminding those in our community to stay safe and use proper viewing procedures. “Unprotected viewing of the solar eclipse can cause serious retinal burns, resulting in temporary or permanent vision loss,” cautions Eric George, MD, an ophthalmologist with the practice’s Abington and Hatboro offices.


In the Philadelphia area, the eclipse will last up to three hours. Viewing the sun as it is gradually covered and then uncovered by the moon can be dangerous because intense rays can burn the delicate retina at the back of the eye. “Normally, our aversion reflex keeps us from staring at the sun,” says Dr. George. “But in the case of an eclipse, we may want to look at the phenomenon. The retina can be damaged if unprotected, even after just a few seconds.”

Viewing the eclipse through sunglasses, cell phones, cameras and homemade filters do not protect the retina. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests visiting the American Astronomical Society’s website, which recommends options for solar-eclipse-viewing eyewear. Other ways to safely see the eclipse are through NASA’s live-streaming website or at a local planetarium.

Retina burns, or solar retinopathy, can be painless at first. Blurred vision, often the first symptom, may not appear until the next day. Dr. George advises an immediate examination with an ophthalmologist if you suspect exposure to harmful sun rays.

To find an Abington—Jefferson Health ophthalmologist, call 215-481-MEDI.

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