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Eclipse watching: How to safely see it, according to ophthalmologists

Long Islanders will get the rare opportunity to see a solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

While it may be tempting, ophthalmologists are cautioning against unsafe viewing of the solar event.

Here's what a Long Island professional had to say about safe eclipse viewing.

You're basically burning your eyeballs.

Photo Credit: AP

"Have you ever focused a magnifying glass over a piece of paper and it begins to burn? That's what the eye is doing" when you look at the sun, said Dr. Matt Gorski, an ophthalmologist practicing at Northwell Health Patchogue.
The solar energy is focused by your eye onto the small area that is the retina, which is essentially burned, Gorski said.

It can cause permanent damage.

Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

"In some cases, the body can heal the damage that's been done," Gorski said. "But even everyday exposure to the sun can result in increased in instances of cataracts or macular degeneration."
When you stare directly at the sun for even a few seconds, it is enough to cause permanent damage, like a condition called solar retinopathy. This type of medical issue is caused by ongoing damage from solar radiation, and while the body can often repair the damage that is done, some of it can be irreversible.
"There is no real treatment that ophthalmologists can provide for this," Gorski said.

You can still look at it, but not without protection.

Photo Credit: AP

"The only safe way to look directly at the eclipse is by using special eclipse glasses, which are ISO 12312-2," Gorski said. The glasses are available online and in select film, optic and science stores.
Regular sunglasses, no matter how strong the UV protection, won't protect viewers. Binoculars, telescopes, cameras, including those on cellphones, are also not safe to look at the eclipse.
There are also other projection methods, like pinhole cameras, which can be made at home for safe viewing.

Using selfie mode probably isn't a good idea.

While it may seem like a genius way
Photo Credit: AP

While it may seem like a genius way to look at the sun without actually looking at it, Gorski believes this hack may be too risky.
"I understand the idea, that your back will be turned toward the sun," said Gorski. "But the surface of the phone could act almost like a mirror and reflect the rays back into your eyes. It's not a good idea to try it."

Are your glasses legit?

Since most people aren't experts in ophthalmology, many
Photo Credit: AP

Since most people aren't experts in ophthalmology, many won't know if they have fallen victim to knockoff eclipse glasses.
NASA experts say eclipse glasses must be designated with the ISO 12312-2 international standard and have a manufacturer's name and address printed on the product.
Don't feel too badly if you were duped. Even Amazon shoppers were fooled by phony shades, and the company issued refunds and removed several listings of glasses that may not have met eclipse viewing standards.

Got Lasik? Be careful.

Photo Credit: AP / Dresling Jens

"Wearing contact lenses, having had LASIK or other eye surgeries does not protect you from the sun," Gorski said. "You still need to wear the special glasses."
Already have eclipse glasses? "Inspect them and make sure they are not scratched or damaged in any way, because any damage will prevent them from protecting you," Gorski said.
The Centers for Disease Control also advises replacing eclipse glasses that are more than three years old.

Bottom line.

Photo Credit: AP

"It's never safe to look directly at the sun during an eclipse without any eye protection," Gorski said. "This is a very exciting event, but you have to protect yourself to prevent any issues. So enjoy it, safely."

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