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Doctors give good report after eclipse

Local eye doctors said this week they have not seen any patients with eye damage from viewing the Aug. 21 eclipse.

“So far, I haven’t seen any,” Dr. David Lotz said. “Hopefully, I don’t. Hopefully, people were responsible in using the eclipse glasses.”

In Suffolk, the moon obscured about 86 to 87 percent of the sun during the afternoon eclipse last Monday. However, it still was not safe to look at without protection.

Dr. S. Mark Enochs said his office took dozens of calls per day leading up to the eclipse, many from people asking if his office was selling the glasses, which needed to meet international safety standards. Regular sunglasses wouldn’t cut it.

Enochs said he advised his patients not to look at the eclipse, even with the glasses. Reports that many glasses sold did not actually conform to the safety standard informed that decision.

Enochs said he didn’t look at the eclipse, either.

“I told everybody who asked that I recommend not looking at the eclipse at all,” Enochs said. “I don’t necessarily trust all the eclipse glasses being sold out there. Some of them had been recalled.”

Looking directly at the sun for any length of time can permanently damage the viewer’s eyesight.

“If you look directly at the sun, the energy from that super-intense light can damage the photoreceptors in your macula,” Enochs said. “Once they’re dead, that’s it. You can’t grow new ones. Whatever vision is lost or distorted is permanent.”

Enochs said people who fear they may have caused permanent damage to their vision by looking at the eclipse can look for some symptoms. An object that looks distorted or appears to have a piece missing is one clue.

“If you’re looking directly at something, for example reading, and part of the word you’re looking at is distorted or missing, you could have damage to your macula,” Enochs said. “I would recommend a dilated eye exam (as soon as possible) to get that checked out.”

Lotz said common symptoms include blurry or distorted vision, a blind spot in or near the center of vision or a change in color vision in one or both eyes.

“If someone is noticing one or more of these symptoms, they should contact their eye doctor as soon as possible,” Lotz wrote in an email.

Those who did use their eclipse glasses responsibly, and still have them, can drop them off at the Suffolk News-Herald office to donate them to Astronomers Without Borders, which will redistribute them to other nations that will be experiencing eclipses in 2019.

“With the public’s help in 2019, we’ll be able to help far more students participate in a first-hand, inspirational science experience in countries where the glasses aren’t available,” Mike Simmons, president of Astronomers Without Borders, stated in an email.

He estimated more than 100 million eclipse glasses are headed for the trash pile across the United States if the organization does not collect them and reuse them.

Eclipse glasses can be sent in even if they may expire within three years, as long as they are in good shape and comply with the latest ISO standards.

According to the Astronomers Without Borders website, the filter material is required not to degrade. The paper material that makes up the “frames” of the glasses may be damaged by inappropriate storage, which is why most eclipse glasses have an expiration date.

Any glasses that are donated will be reviewed by the Astronomers Without Borders and Explore Scientific team to ensure that they are certified safe.

Eclipse glasses can be dropped off at the Suffolk News-Herald office, 130 S. Saratoga St., during regular office hours, which are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Eclipse glasses should be dropped off by the end of September.