Retina Expert on Why Looking at the Sun is so Damaging


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield will see more than 95 percent of the total eclipse on Monday, August 21. And retinal physicians can’t stress enough how it is critical for everyone to keep sight safety in mind.

Dr. Geoffrey G. Emerson, chair of the American Society of Retina Specialists, Research and Safety in Therapeutics Committee talks with KOLR10 News.

KOLR10’s Heather Lewis asks, “With Springfield so close to the path of totality, tell us what, exactly, is the danger of looking at the sun during this eclipse?”

“The risk is real,” Dr. Emerson says. “I have some patients who have stared at the sun and have injured their retina. The direct sunlight is just too powerful for the delicate retina. And it can burn a hole. It can kill some of the cells that are important for vision. And that leaves a blind spot in your vision. It affects your reading, your driving, recognizing faces. These are important activities that we take for granted.”

“I hear some people ask – we’re out in the sun every day and we wear sunglasses. How is this different?” asks Elisa Raffa.

“In this case, the sun is higher in the sky and if you’re looking directly at it, the eye is just too powerful at bringing in the light to the retina,” Dr. Emerson says. “The front of the eye is a powerful lens that can focus or intensify that light directly on this very delicate tissue. That’s different than watching a sunset.”

“One thing that definitely didn’t exist the last time this happened was the selfie. What can you say to people thinking about taking some pictures during the eclipse?” Heather asks.

“The selfie is a big issue. I think a lot of people want to take pictures. Just remember, when you’re facing the sun – or the eclipse – make sure you have proper protection. Like the ISO certified eclipse glasses. Also remember, it’s not okay to look through a camera lens at the sun, unless it has a solar filter on the front end of the camera. And that’s true also for binoculars and telescopes,” Dr. Emerson cautions.

And if you aren’t heading out to an event for the eclipse Monday, join us here at KOLR10. We’ll have an hour long eclipse special starting at 12:30 and will stream it live online on

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