– Because you can cause serious damage to your eyesight.
Now you might think that people wouldn’t look at the sun would you, but you would be wrong – many people look up into the sky during an eclipse of the sun thinking that just because the light is poor the sun won’t do any damage, and this is simply NOT the case!
There DEFINITELY IS enough sunlight during even a total eclipse to cause damage – permanent damage – to the eyes, especially if as is often the case eclipse watchers insist on staring at the phenomenon for long periods.
It isn’t the heat of the sun that does the damage – it’s the light!
Light is focussed through the eye lens which concentrates that light at the back of the eye on the macula, an extremely light sensitive area of the retina. The light from the sun contains very harmful rays that the retina just cannot cope with!
Retinopathy is a general medical term used to describe any inflammation or degradation in the retina, usually caused by diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The term solar retinopathy is reserved to be used when the inflammation is caused by exposure to sunlight (and some other serious harmful light conditions).
What happens if you do look at the sun too long?
Fortunately any vision loss is usually recoverable, although it can take from a few months to a year before everything is back to normal.
Symptoms experienced obviously include loss of vision and can be measured during conventional eye tests, but also a “blind spot” – known medically as a scotoma – may form. The formation of a blind spot can be thought of as being produced on the retina in a similar way as a magnifying glass is able to produce a burn mark on a piece of paper if focussed correctly.
The question people often ask is “can looking at the sun cause blindness?” – and the answer of course is not really. Staring at the sun is not painful but it is difficult to do for long periods.
There isn’t really any – but remember that any loss of vision is reversible; this means the important ingredient in the treatment protocol consists of big doses of patience!
And during the patience period maybe a thought or two should be given to the old adage “prevention is better than cure”.
How should you look at an eclipse?
The best thing to do of course is not look at it at all!
After every eclipse, even though warnings have been broadcast, there are always instances of mild to severe cases of “sun blindness”. Inevitably there are also assessments made and reported in medical journals
A good way to experience an eclipse safely is to watch it on TV.
If there isn’t a TV station broadcasting the event then why not make a simple pin-hole projector with a couple of cards. If you need help then do an internet search and you’ll find plenty of ideas.
Happy eclipse watching – just be careful that’s all!