Rosenberg School of Optometry Urges Community to Protect their Vision During Upcoming Solar Eclipse

October 6, 2023

On Saturday, October 14, UIW and the San Antonio community have the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse. An annular solar eclipse, to be more specific. This particular event is referred to as a “ring of fire” eclipse because as the moon aligns with the sun’s center, a glowing ring can be seen as the sun’s outer edges remain visible.

While this rare occurrence is certainly interesting, and many have the desire to see this glowing ring, experts at UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry are urging the community to protect their vision during the eclipse. Viewing the eclipse directly poses the risk of causing permanent vision damage if the proper precautions and preparations are not taken.

The rays from the ring can cause intense damage to your retina, known as solar maculopathy/retinopathy, meaning that the muscles in your retina can be severely injured, causing irreversible harm to your sight.

In order to safely view the eclipse, eclipse glasses that are rated “ISO 12312-2” must be worn to properly protect your eyes. Regular sunglasses and dilation sunglasses are not suitable to protect your vision since they offer significantly weaker protection.

Dr. Roberto (Bobby) Saenz, clinical assistant professor at the UIW Rosenburg School of Optometry, explained why this occurrence has the ability to cause so much damage. “The sky won't be as bright, and we won't have the reflexes that we normally have to turn away from the sun. This allows those who are looking at the eclipse to have the sun rays from the outer ring focus on their eye.”

Saenz explained that two types of damage can happen when sun rays focus on your eyes.

UV keratitis, where small areas of sunburn can appear on the cornea (the clear part of your eyes). This can cause the eyes to turn red and feel a burning/stinging sensation. This is usually reversible, but the amount of time for conditions to improve varies from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Solar retinopathy or eclipse retinopathy, refers to the permanent damage of vision that can occur due to the sun severely burning your retina. This can leave people with a permanent blind spot in their vision forever.

“I've seen patients who cannot pass their driver license test after having solar retinopathy,” Saenz shared. “The simple mistake or lack of knowledge to wear eclipse glasses could be life-altering.” 

Sanez advised that if you wish to see the eclipse to prepare now! The Rosenberg School of Optometry has a limited supply of free eclipse glasses available to the community for those who wish to enjoy the sight, without risking permanent damage to their vision. Glasses can be picked up at the UIW Eye Institute (9725 Datapoint) and at the UIW Bowden Eye and Health Care Institute (2547 E. Commerce St., SA, TX 78203).

However, if you do not have eclipse glasses at your disposal during the eclipse, be sure to not look directly at the eclipse.

Saenz offered an alternative option for viewing the eclipse indirectly for those who can’t get a pair of eclipse glasses in time.

“You can make a pinhole projector,” he explained. “Take a thumbtack and make a hole in a piece of paper. Do NOT view the eclipse through the small hole in the piece of paper. Use the small opening of the paper and hold it about 6 inches away from another piece of paper on the floor outside. The pinhole sheet of paper should focus the eclipse on the piece of paper on the floor. Now you can safely view the eclipse indirectly on the piece of paper on the floor.”

For more information regarding the eclipse, click on the links below: