Protecting Eyes during the Upcoming Eclipse

Harrisburg, August 10, 2017 - Later this month, United States citizens will be able to see an eclipse of the sun travel across the country for the first time in almost 100 years and eye protection should be the number one priority. On Monday, August 21, 2017, the eclipse will start in Oregon and travel to South Carolina. This eclipse is caused by the moon passing in front of the sun. When the sun's rays are completely blocked, scientists call this totality. While the path of totality is only about 70 miles wide, most of the country will be able to observe a partial eclipse. In Pennsylvania, the eclipse will reach between 75-80% coverage of the sun.

While the eclipse's occurrence provides an exciting and rare opportunity to observe the movements of the sun and moon, it also poses a serious risk of harm to the eyes. The sun emits invisible infrared waves that can cause serious damage to the eyes, including blindness. The sun is so bright that our instincts normally cause us to look away, but during the eclipse, the sun's rays may not seem as intense and we may be tempted to watch the movement of the moon across the face of the sun. Although you may not feel discomfort while watching an eclipse, the risk to your eyes remains the same as when looking at the fully exposed sun. Looking at the eclipse can result in a condition known as solar retinopathy, which is damage to the retina, the portion of the eye responsible for collecting light and transmitting images to the optic nerve. Damage to the retina from the sun could be permanent and could cause blindness.

For those who want to take part in this astronomical event, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) suggests proper ways of viewing, which includes the use of Pinhole Projectors or proper solar glasses. Pinhole Projectors can be made by punching a small hole in a piece of cardboard. The sun's rays, positioned behind you, can pass through the pinhole in the cardboard and shine on a plain white paper below. You can then safely watch the projection of the sun on the card below the projector. NASA has informative templates on its website at

A second alternative for safe viewing is solar glasses. These glasses have lenses that filter the sun. If using solar glasses to observe the eclipse, it is crucial to make sure that the glasses are stamped with the International Safety Organization's reference number 12312-2. This indicates that the lenses meet the necessary safety standards to block the harmful rays. It is also important to use only new glasses. Lenses more than three years old are expired and no longer safe to protect your retinas from damage.

If you have questions about safe viewing of the solar eclipse, do not hesitate to ask your local optometrist. The POA offers a Doctor Locator on its website at to help you easily find the professionals around you that are available now and in the future for your yearly eye examinations.


About the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA):

The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is the professional organization for doctors of optometry in Pennsylvania. An affiliate of the American Optometric Association, the POA promotes the highest quality eye and vision care by optometrists, represents optometry to state government, provides its members with post-graduate education and membership benefits, and conducts activities in the interest of the visual welfare of the public. For more information, visit