This year's solar eclipse will definitely be a visually stunning event, lasting about 90 minutes from coast to coast in the US. Here are some tips to prevent the event from being "a sight for sore eyes".
1) Your tinted, photochromic, or polarized prescription eyewear may be awesome, but are not useful in preventing solar radiation from reaching your eyes.
2) Solar eclipse glasses and/or handheld solar viewers must be NASA-approved and ISO 12312-2 compliant. These block visible light to a much more comfortable level and also block UV and infrared light from reaching the ocular surface.
3) Beware that there are many "counterfeit" solar eclipse glasses circulating around the world. If they don't specificy "ISO 12312-2 compliant", they are probably not safe.
4) Damage from unprotected solar viewing usually affects the retina, which is the back surface of the inner eye. Specifically, it is the macular area which is most affected. This area controls our ability to perceive detail in our central vision. If there is damage here, you will not feel it due to the absence of pain nerves in the retina. The only indication will be distorted vision, possibly with permanent blind spots in one's central vision.
5) Those with small children should also think twice about schools which allow children to view the event with school-sponsored viewing glasses. What would happen if the wind blew off a child's glasses, or another child playfully took them away from another child during the event? When in doubt, stay indoors and watch the show on the news or on your smartphone. A few moments of viewing the event live and direct isn't worth a lifetime of impaired and irreparable vision.
Dr. Harris is an optometrist and owner of Atlanta Vision Studio, a small boutique practice located in East Roswell that specializes in very unique and distinctive eyewear, medical eyecare, and specialty contact lenses.