How will ophthalmologists watch the eclipse?

August 19, 2017

Ophthalmologists all know how to safely watch an eclipse, but how will ophthalmologists around the country be participating in and observing the event?

Ophthalmologists know how to watch an eclipse safely, but how will ophthalmologists around the country be participating in and observing the event?

[For 5 tips on the specifics of safe eclipse viewing, take a look at Top 5 ways to help your patients safely view the solar eclipse from our sister publication, Optometry Times.]

 

Nature’s reaction

“I will be speaking at a meeting in Toronto on the date of the solar eclipse, but I intend to view the eclipse with my daughter that afternoon,” said Andrew Lee, MD, Blanton Eye Institute, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, and a member of Ophthalmology Times’ Editorial Advisory Board.

“I once traveled to Aruba to see the eclipse as part of a medical meeting," Dr. Lee said. "One of the most memorable and fascinating aspects of the eclipse was that songbirds and other animals initially fell silent during the eclipse, and then a cacophony of confused and loud sounds followed as the birds, cats, and dogs reacted to the false dawn.”

 

Slowing down

Arun Gulani, MD, recently spoke on a local radio show in Jacksonville, FL, about best practices for watching the eclipse. Though that conversation was geared towards the public, Dr. Gulani has a special message for his fellow ophthalmologists.

“Savor this moment as a unique event to take life in a higher perspective,” he said.

At Dr. Gulani’s practice, Gulani Vision Institute, patients fly in for surgery from around the world. He instructed his staff not to book any patients on the day of the eclipse.

“It’s a once in a lifetime event,” Dr. Gulani said. “We sometimes need to slow down and remember how small and insignificant we are.”

He considers it a natural phenomenon not to be missed, and noted he may go to South Carolina or Nashville to see the eclipse in totality.

 

Light/shadow bands

For people in areas where the eclipse will be visible in its totality, snake-like images called shadow or light bands may appear on the ground directly before and/or after totality.

While it isn’t fully understood what causes these snake-like images, scientists consider them to be wavy lines of alternating light and dark moving in parallel patterns.

"Who better to understand [this]? What an opportunity!” Dr. Gulani said. “Being ophthalmologists where vision is so important-what a spectrum!”

An event such as this puts things in perspective, he continued, whether they be discussions about IOL choices, LASIK techniques, or complaints about traffic, technology, or life in general.

“Sit down, smile, and realize, ‘I am nothing,’” he said.

 

Cabin viewing

“The eclipse goes right over our cabin in Wyoming so I will have a big family crew there viewing the event,” said Randall Olson, MD, chairman, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. He also is an associate medical editor on the Ophthalmology Times Editorial Advisory Board.

 

Even ophthalmologists can be duped

Dr. Olson needed to purchase his solar eclipse glasses twice after he received an email from Amazon about a recall for the first one he purchased.

“They were the most common ones that Amazon had been selling,” he said. “The new ones are from our local planetarium and were rechecked and found to be good.”

 

Road trip

“I am doing a road trip with my son to see the eclipse in Oregon,” said Uday Devgan, MD, FACS, FRCS, Devgan Eye Surgery, Los Angeles. "We are already on our way and we're hoping for clear skies and light traffic."

“Safety is key and we have appropriate eye protection,” said Dr. Devgan, who is a member of the Ophthalmology Times Editorial Advisory Board. “We will be using commercial grade welding glasses with a shade 14 rating (note that the typical welding glasses in shade 5, 10, or 11 are insufficient to provide the appropriate protection for eclipse viewing). Solar retinopathy can be very damaging to the retina, particularly the fovea. While there are cheaper alternatives made using cardboard frames and Mylar plastic, I'd rather be on the safe side.

“I've been telling my patients that even in Los Angeles, they will be able to see a partial eclipse (with proper eye protection), but it won't be the same as being in the path of totality!” he said.

 

Running in between patients

“I will try to run out in between patients to see it! Also…the [American Academy of Ophthalmology] sent along these cute solar glasses-so I will wear those for sure!” said Jesse Berry, MD, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology, assistant director of ocular oncology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, associate residency program director for Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center.

 

First one to see the eclipse

“I plan on being on the Oregon coast that day and driving up to Newport or Depoe Bay early in the morning if traffic permits," said Richard S. Hoffman, MD. "I have my ISO 12312-2 solar glasses and plan on looking at the eclipse intermittently if weather permits.  I may even take a boat ride out of shore so that I can be one of the first people to see it in the country.

"I tell my patients to make sure they are using ISO-approved glasses, but to play it safe, don’t stare at the eclipse for the full time," said Dr. Hoffman, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology, Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, and a member of Ophthalmology Times’ Editorial Advisory Board.

"The totality event is the real special part of the eclipse so they should only stare for prolonged periods during that portion just in case they got bogus or defective glasses,” he said.

 

Patient education

“Mondays are my scheduled surgery days so I will be operating during the day of the solar eclipse," said Joshua Mali, MD, The Eye Associates, Sarasota, FL. "However, I may try to enjoy this amazing natural phenomenon in between surgical cases. If I finish my cases early, I will view the solar eclipse with my wife, Yasmin.

"Naturally as a retinal surgeon, I have received many inquiries regarding optimal viewing tips for the solar eclipse from family, friends, patients, and media outlets," Dr. Mali said. "It is a pleasure educating people on all the safety aspects in order for everyone to enjoy this wonderful event!”

 

Jury still out on protection for dogs

The scientific community seems to be split on whether eye protection is needed for dogs during an eclipse. Some say the animals may be spooked by the sudden dawn, but unlike people, probably won’t be staring directly at the sun.

Others say it’s better to play it safe and either keep dogs inside with blinds closed or to attempt to fit approved ISO 12312-2 glasses on them.

“If the dog were to look at [the eclipse] directly, then it may pose a risk, especially during a partial eclipse,” Dr. Mali said.

 

Even the partial eclipse is worth watching

“I am not traveling to see totality," said Joel S. Schuman, MD, FACS.

"I will have to make do with the partial eclipse I can see in NYC," said Dr. Schuman, professor and chairman, Department of Ophthalmology, NYU Langone Medical Center, NY, and a member of the Ophthalmology Times Editorial Advisory Board.

"I will wear eclipse glasses that meet the safety standard ISO 12312-2," he said. "If I were in the band of totality, I could look at the sun when fully covered by the disc of the moon, with only the corona visible, without safety glasses, but as soon as the diamond ring appears, I would have to put the safety glasses back on."

 

Keeping it simple

“I’m watching it and I’m following AAO recommendations: How to Experience the Great American Solar Eclipse Without Damaging Your Vision,” said Robert K. Maloney, MD, MA(Oxon), Maloney Vision Institute, Los Angeles, and an associate medical editor of the Ophthalmology Times Editorial Advisory Board.

 

Additional resources:

Top 5 ways to help your patients safely view the solar eclipse

Learn How to Photograph an Eclipse Without Damaging Your Eyes or Your Camera

NASA Eclipse Homepage

Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers