Eye experts warn of long-term dangers from staring at solar eclipse

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DENVER — Vision experts are warning of the potential dangers when it comes to viewing the solar eclipse.

“There is no place in the state of Colorado that is safe to look directly at this solar eclipse,” UCHealth Eye Center retinal specialist Dr. Scott Oliver said.

Colorado does not fall within the path of totality, where the sun will be completely blocked out by the passing moon on Monday.

The far northeast corner of the state will only achieve 99.25 percent totality, meaning 00.75 percent of the sun will still be visible.

Even that small amount could be dangerous to the naked eye.

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“There is so much light energy that comes out through that little tiny sliver of the sun that that alone could cause a burn to the retina,” Oliver said.

Even a few seconds of direct sun exposure could cause the light passing through a lens to burn a hole in the retina.

“The magnifying glass that you used to use to burn a hole in a leaf or fry a bug, that’s kind of how your eye works,” Oliver said.

He worries some eclipse watchers will accidentally do serious damage to their vision.

“Very simply put, you could go blind,” he said. “Even though it senses light, [the retina] doesn’t have any pain sensors so you wouldn’t know if you were burning a hole into the back of the macula until the damage is done.”

While it is rare, permanent blindness after looking at the sun does happen. Once a retina is damaged, the cells do not repair themselves.

There is an easy way to prevent eye damage when viewing eclipses.

Many places are offering eclipse glasses that have solar filters that black out everything except a miniscule amount of sunlight to see the moon pass in front of the sun.

Sunglasses are not good enough. The eclipse glasses must be approved with “ISO 123.12.2” designation.

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