Eclipse Eye Damage Lasted A Lifetime For Some: ‘Thousands’ Feared To Suffer Vision Problems

The total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, but by taking some time this weekend to talk to your kids about the dangers of looking at the solar eclipse with the naked eye, you could save them from a lifetime of eye problems. Damaging your eyes during a solar eclipse is not an old wives’ tale and it doesn’t take more than a second or two of exposing your unprotected eyes to the eclipse to cause permanent damage.

While the warnings are out there and the seriousness of keeping your eyes safe has been stressed over and over again for the last month or so, there will still be some who tempt fate. These are the folks who eye doctors expect to see in the days following Monday’s total solar eclipse.

According to KIRO 7 News, a University of Washington ophthalmologists fears that “thousands will suffer eye damage,” as history has shown that all people do not heed the warnings. Based on a similar eclipse that took place in Sussex, England, 20 years ago, Ophthalmologist Russell Van Gelder believes, that while the majority of the masses will heed the warnings, a small percentage of solar eclipse watchers will not. These are the people who will are in danger of doing damage to their eyes.

That solar eclipse in England had about 500,000 in the viewing area at the time. The next day 20 people sought medical treatment for retinopathy. The solar eclipse on Monday will cover a much bigger area than the one 20 years ago in the U.K., Van Gelder said, “it will have a much larger reach.” He predicts,

“If you think about the fact that there are 10 million people in the path of totality and over 100 million in (the) partial eclipse zone, we could see thousands of people coming to our offices.”

Eye damage during the solar eclipse is not an old wives' tale, it can and will happen if you don't heed the warnings
[Image by ESB Professional/Shutterstock]

Out of the people who will do damage to their eyes during Monday’s eclipse, 50 percent will recover and 50 percent will be left with permanent damage, said Van Gelder. He said if you are suffering from vision loss the day that follows the eclipse, it is important to see an ophthalmologist, as these are the medical professionals who can diagnose your problem immediately.

It is not worth taking a chance at suffering a lifetime of vision problems for just a glimpse of the solar eclipse. There is one Oregon man who can tell you this from his first-hand experience.

Throwing caution to the wind for just a few seconds and gazing up with the naked eye to see the solar eclipse can leave you with vision problems for the remainder of your days. Just ask Lou Tomososki, who at 70 has lived the last 55 years with a damaged retina from looking at the 1962 solar eclipse without eye protection.

Tomososki looked up at the solar eclipse while walking home from his Oregon high school five decades ago and he has paid for this mistake for his entire life. Irreversible damage was done to the retina in his right eye, which he burned while looking at the solar eclipse that afternoon, according to People Magazine.

Just a few seconds of his curiosity getting the best of him has left this man with a spot in his vision that he describes as “blurry.” When you are watching TV and they blur out a license plate number, that is what his vision is like in that one spot in his eye, Tomosoki tells reporters.

It started by Tomosoki seeing flashes in his field of vision, much like what you would see when a flashbulb goes off when someone takes your picture. It was a rare event that Tomosoki watched directly that day, but he warns that those few seconds are not worth what can happen to your eyes.

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Tomososki told KGW News, “It’s going to be over real quick and it’s not worth taking a chance,” and he certainly hopes people heed his warning. He was just a high school kid that got caught up in a “silly dare.” Tomososki and his buddy were outside the Marshall High School when he said to his friend, “if you stare at it long enough, the brightness goes away.”

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Both Tomososki and his friend still have vision problems from that day. It takes no time at all to damage your vision, according to Dr. Brandon Lujan of the Casey Eye Institute. Lujan said, “Anytime looking can do damage.”

Tomososki, who is excited about Monday’s total eclipse, will be outside for the event, but his plans are restricted to looking anywhere but up. He plans to “stand back and watch it get dark.”

According to the Dayton Daily News, Dr. Amina Husain, with Premier Eye Surgeons, offers up a warning based very much in reality. Not wearing eye protection will cause vision problems, but even with protective eye gear you shouldn’t look too long at the solar eclipse, said Husain. This is not a time to take a chance with your eyes. According to Husain, “You can theoretically burn your retina and potentially go blind and that’s a big complication.”

Emergency rooms across the country, especially those in the path of the totality of the eclipse, are gearing up for patients to walk in with eye problems. John Weimer is the vice president of emergency and trauma services with Kettering Health Network, which is a network with 10 emergency rooms. Their emergency services are “prepared to assess the severity of any eye injuries that happen during the event and also refer patients to their ophthalmologists in the network.”

NASA-approved viewing glasses are recommended for those watching the solar eclipse. According to the Dayton Daily News, there’s about a minute during which the moon is completely blocking out the sun where it is safe to look up, but that is only in the areas that will experience the solar eclipse in its totality. The Dayton Daily News reports that “In some parts of the country, viewers can briefly look directly at the eclipse for about a minute while the moon crosses the sun.” This is only a small area of the country and in most places, there won’t be a time to look safely up at the eclipse.

[Featured Image by S. Ruilk/Shutterstock]