Permanent damage can be done with even the slightest look into direct sunlight, an eye doctor says.

Share story

It may be tempting to wander outside Monday morning and cast eyes to the sky to catch the rare solar eclipse in view throughout much of the Pacific Northwest.

Doctor’s orders? Only do so with caution and preparedness.

Dr. Tony Huynh, an ophthalmologist, or eye specialist with Pacific Medical Centers, hasn’t seen retina damage due to an eclipse, because they happen so rarely. But he cautions that it doesn’t take much direct sunlight to permanently damage the eye.

“A good rule of thumb is to never look at the sun directly without the appropriate type of protective barrier or filter between you and the sun,” Huynh said.

Although it’s an exciting event, he said, viewers have to remember first to be safe. While there are many types of eyewear being sold, look out for glasses labeled ISO 12312-2, which are strong enough to filter the sun’s rays during the eclipse.

More on the eclipse

Damage to the retina, the delicate inner layer of the eye wall, is the most common injury and can cause blurred vision, decreased color vision, blind spots, distorted vision and headaches.

The only time viewers can get away with not wearing the protective eyewear is when the sun is completely blocked by the moon. The minute the sun starts to reappear, eye protection has to be back on, to ensure no damage is done.

Those who have to be out and about Monday don’t have to fear or take any special precautions, Huynh said, but should fight the urge to look directly up at the sun.

He added that those who decide to watch the eclipse at the last minute are most at risk of damaging their vision.

“Given people’s sense of curiosity, even those that did not initially plan on viewing the eclipse may be tempted to watch it,” he said. “I would caution these people not to do so.”