LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Millions across the country are lining up to buy special glasses to view what some are calling the event of the century, when a solar eclipse passes across the globe on Monday.
Anxiety is also growing amid warnings that looking at the sun without the appropriate glasses can leave permanent eye damage.
So, what if you don't stare… you just peak?
Dr. James Lee, an Ophthalmologist and Texas Tech Physician, says sorry, to be safe, no peaking either. Dr. Lee says the condition is called solar retinopathy, a fancy name for looking at the sun and getting burned in the eye. He explains, "Because It's the retina that gets damaged, and for your eye, if it was a camera, the retina is like the film. So you can imagine if you had a little spot on the retina on your film that's damaged, then everything that the eye turns to look at is going to have a little distortion or blurry area in it. And unfortunately, that can often be permanent."
That is an injury that eye doctors take very seriously. And Dr. Lee says based on history, they know the solar eclipse will bring some eye damage to unsuspecting folks on Monday. He says, "There's really not a safe way or amount of time to look at the sun without the appropriate equipment."
Some people discover the damage weeks or months after looking at the sun, but usually, he says a person notices something wrong with their vision within 2 to 3 hours after direct sun exposure to the eyes.
But why? We've all gone outside on a hot day and maybe looked at the sun briefly with no injury. That's the very reason that Dr. Lee says many will be tempted to peak at the sun on Monday, especially when the eclipse darkens the sky. He explains, "The real danger with an eclipse and why we get so many cases of this is that the sun's brightness is blunted enough that people throw on what they think are regular protective sun glasses and are able to look at the sun long enough to get damage."
Dr. Lee says it doesn't matter how dark or expensive your sunglasses are. They will not protect you from a solar eclipse. You need specific solar eclipse glasses that will be stamped with ISO 12312-2. Also, since there are some fake glasses on the market, he says the American Academy of Ophthalmology has on the front page of its website, aao.org, a list of approved manufacturers so you can check to see if your glasses are safe.
Dr. Lee says don't try any do-it-yourself kits at home to view the sun directly, because there's no way to test those without submitting yourself to eye damage.
He says the safest way to view the eclipse is indirectly with the pinhole method which he explains in the full interview above.
Or, of course, he says you can always watch the eclipse on TV. That's safe.
In fact, we will be streaming it live on Monday here on KCBD.com.