PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Leonard Bates was 9-years-old when he saw his first eclipse. The 80-year-old made his own viewer instead of using solar glasses.
“I didn’t think it was necessary to buy smoked glass so I smoked some glass myself,” he said.
That decision cost him. Leonard permanently lost some vision in his right eye.
“There was a spot right at the center of my right eye, my focus, that was just a blur,” said Bates.
Doctors are worried there will be more cases like Leonard’s with the upcoming eclipse. Either people using the wrong kind of eye protection, or because the sun’s brightness will be diminished, they’ll be able to stare at the sun, which normally you can’t do.
“It’s so dangerous for people to look at the sun even for brief periods of time because you can cause permanent damage to the retina. We call it solar retinopathy and it’s really very close to burning a hole in the retina,” said Dr. Russell Van Gelder, spokesperson with the American Ccademy of Ophthalmology.
This study documents other cases of acute eclipse retinopathy that happened in January of 2011 where there was a total eclipse over much of Europe.
Four people who looked directly at the sun during the eclipse without eye protection all had damaged retinas.
“You can actually see the swelling of the retina and the surrounding damage, fortunately, a lot of times it’s reversible, but unfortunately there’s times where it’s not reversible and people can have permanent vision loss,” said Dr. John Dugan, an ophthalmologist in Voorhees.
The only one way to safely view a partial or total eclipse is with certified solar glasses, simple sunglasses are not enough.
“Be very very careful. The warnings that you hear are right,” said Bates.
Leonard says he’s lucky to still have vision in his left eye. This time around, he’ll watch the eclipse on TV.
Some bogus solar glasses are circulating without the certified UV filters. Doctors say they’re dangerous. People using them will not get the right kind of protection.
CLICK HERE for a list of reputable glasses.