While we won’t get a total eclipse in the heart of Texas, many in the Lone Star State are still just as eager as the rest of the nation to catch a glimpse of this historic event. But before you venture out to take a look this Monday, experts warn stargazers to think ahead about the sun’s dangers.

“Solar retinopathy results in a blind spot typically in the center of your vision where you fixate on images—the macula—the part of the retina that has the most photoreceptors and gives us 20/20 vision,” says Melinda Rainey, MD, Dell Children’s ophthalmologist. “You lose that vision when you don’t protect your eyes.”

According to Rainey, the sun burns the living pigment of the retina, which dies and drops out, leaving a pale spot that doesn’t function anymore.

“Because the consequences of not protecting your eyes are so severe, it’s important to take necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe,” Rainey says.

Staying safe during the eclipse

Arm yourself with knowledge about how to protect your eyes and what can happen to your vision if you don’t. Here are some tips to prepare:

  1. You can severely damage your eyes and vision if you look at the eclipse without proper protection, like eclipse glasses. Looking directly at the sun, even while it’s partially eclipsed, can permanently damage vision or blind you.
  2. Ordinary sunglasses won’t protect your eyes: Take eclipse glasses with you with special filters to avoid damage.
  3. Carefully check your eclipse glasses for scratches or damage and if you spot any, don’t use them.
  4. If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them or hold the handheld viewer in front of them.
  5. Kiddos can use DIY pinhole cameras. Check out these NASA tips on how to make one.
  6. Things like binoculars or telescopes are notsafe to use. Instead, use specially designed solar eclipse glasses or filters for lenses to block the sun’s harmful rays. Check your devices with the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  7. If you’re photographing the eclipse, buy a solar filter and put it over the camera lens.

The solar eclipse only lasts for about two minutes, but the partial eclipse that happens before and after can permanently damage your vision. So use that proper eyewear.

A total solar eclipse is about as bright as a full moon and is safe to look at. However, according to NASA, viewing the sun at any other time is extremely dangerous because of its brightness and should only be viewed through special purpose solar filters.

Information courtesy of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

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