Fact Check: Can staring at the eclipse damage your eyes?

Fact ChecK: Can staring at the eclipse damage your eyes?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The total solar eclipse is less than two months away and millions of people will be looking upward when the moon passes in front of the sun. You’ve probably heard this: Don’t look directly at the sun during the eclipse with the naked eye — you can do serious damage to your vision. But is that true?

It’s one of those things your parents probably warned you about. Don’t stare directly at the sun. Turns out, your parents were right.

“It is very dangerous to watch the sun — even everyday — even if it’s not an eclipse,” said Dr. Rajeev Ramchandran, a retina specialist with UR Medicine’s Flaum Eye Institute.

Consider this: On a normal sunny day, if you were to look up at the sun, you’d probably squint or the brightness would cause you to quickly look away. But the eclipse can fool the eye into being able to look at the sun for a longer period of time.

“And the other thing to remember is during the eclipse, everything gets dim, and what happens when things get dim — your pupils, the center part of your eye, that’s the opening to the inside of the eye — opens up and dilates and that allows more light to come in. So now you’re looking at the sun through dilated pupils and that can cause even more damage to the retina,” said Ramchandran.

And those rays contains infra-red and ultraviolet light waves that can burn through the retina, causing something called solar retinopathy.

“The retina is the back part of the eye and that’s the part that you use to transfer the light into the electrochemical signals that go to your brain through your optic nerve and create the visual picture that we all see,” added Ramchandran.

Even a few seconds of gazing at the eclipse can cause permanent vision loss, often resulting in problems with center vision, so you can’t see faces or fine details.

So do yourself a favor. Get a pair of the eclipse glasses and protect your vision. Because on the question of whether the eclipse can really damage your eyes — that is TRUE.

Additionally, eclipse glasses are not regular sunglasses. Solar viewers are thousands of times darker. NASA says they should comply with the iso 12312-2 international safety standard. Look for that number on the inside of the eclipse glasses.