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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

MU Ophthalmologist gives eye safety tips ahead of solar eclipse

Dr. James Landreneau, an ophthalmologist with MU Health Care, speaks with reporters during a zoom press conference on eclipse eye safety. Landreneau wears a white coat and sits in a room filled with eye care equipment.
Rebecca Smith
Dr. James Landreneau, an ophthalmologist with MU Health Care, speaks with reporters during a zoom press conference on eclipse eye safety.

Parts of Missouri will experience totality during the solar eclipse on April 8, which will provide an opportunity for many Missourians to view the rare event. But without the proper eye protection, viewing an eclipse can be dangerous.

Dr. James Landreneau, an ophthalmologist with MU Health Care, spoke with KBIA's Rebecca Smith during a press conference about what folks can do to keep their eyes safe while viewing a solar event.

REBECCA SMITH: Now, I want to be clear - when you mentioned glasses that people are wearing, these are the tinted glasses, we're not talking traditional sunglasses.

JAMES LANDRENEAU: That's correct. And these are very, very dark - they're about 1000 times darker than traditional sunglasses. But wearing stuff like glasses - sunglasses or glasses with tint - are not appropriate. And that would definitely pose a risk for eye damage. If anyone is interested, they can look up the American Astronomical Society on their recommendations, and they give approved vendors that are either North American or German vendors that you can order from still. I want to mention again that you should be looking for ISO12312-2 standards for what's considered to be safe for viewing the eclipse event.

REBECCA SMITH: We are seeing a total eclipse this time, and so is there a moment in that totality where you can safely view without glasses. What would be your recommendations to folks who are wanting to view with the naked eye?

JAMES LANDRENEAU: I would not recommend any viewing with the naked eye. But during the total eclipse events where the moon is completely guarding the sun, that is technically the time you could view without protective eyewear. But that lasts a couple of minutes, you know, it's three to four minutes of that totality event. And any time outside of that window is dangerous. So I would say that even during totality, it would probably be wise not to view it with a naked eye. Unfortunately during - where we are in Columbia - we will not be experiencing a full eclipse, you have to go a little bit east of here. Although you'll still get a pretty good viewing experience.

REBECCA SMITH: Is there any particular risk with something like this to young eyes? I mean, other than potentially the length of time they would endure permanent damage?

JAMES LANDRENEAU: So that's a fantastic question. Younger eyes are more susceptible for these types of injuries. They think that there's some protective effects of having like, a little bit of a cataract - it's not that much. But a cataract can be a little bit of shielding for these solar episodes. And maybe just younger patients just tend to be a little bit riskier, you know - they look at the sun a little bit longer, but younger patients are a little bit more susceptible. So I don't know if it's a little bit more daring viewing, but yeah, young eyes should specifically be taking these precautions that we were just talking about earlier about protective eyewear or indirect viewing - like a pinhole viewing.

REBECCA SMITH: If I was trying to use the term - something like a sunburn of sorts for the eye - would that be an appropriate way to describe this retinopathy?

JAMES LANDRENEAU: 100% - yeah. Like UV damage to the back of the eye, which is what we call solar retinopathy, it can occur on the front of the eye as well. I mean, your eye can get sunburned just from being on the beach. It's very rare also, but you know, the cornea - the front window of the eye - takes some of this damage too. So the front layer of the eye can get sunburned, it can kind of peel off like you would expect like your skin to peel off if you get a sunburn. That's a more transient, thankfully, and recoverable thing but the retina is not very forgiving. The retina unfortunately does not peel like the front of the cornea does.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
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