- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2017

A sunburn on the eyes will be painless, but the damage will be permanent, said a Maryland opthamologist, who advised anyone experiencing blurred vision after the eclipse to see an eye doctor.

As the moon and sun continue to diverge following Monday’s total solar eclipse, health providers are hoping that emergencies related to the celestial event remain low following public awareness campaigns of safe viewing.

But Dr. Mark Hendrix, an opthamologist with Rockville Eye Associates, warned anyone experiencing symptoms of blurred vision or “after-images” of seeing the outline of the sun, to consult a physician.

“Initially, a mild case, would feel like looking through a smudge on the glasses,” Dr. Hendrix said. “It would feel like seeing an after-image and gradually turn into a black or a blank spot.”

While there is no treatment for retinal burns, Dr. Hendrix encourages anyone who thinks they have these symptoms to still have their eyes checked, as it may be related to a different problem that is treatable.

Many spectators viewed the eclipse through glasses with black, polymer solar filters, which are so strong that only very bright light, such as the sun, can be viewed through them. Some revelers came armed with cereal boxes and shoe boxes in a do-it-yourself eclipse viewing theater. The light of the sun passes through a small pinhole in the box that reflects on to a white piece of paper, showing the eclipse.

Earlier Monday, the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum began handing out the last of its 150,000 eclipse glasses, having started a few days earlier and distributing about 24,000 before the moon began passing over the sun.

The line of people waiting for free glasses wrapped around the museum, but moved quickly. Some vendors passed out free sodas to those waiting in the heat, which reached about 90 degrees in D.C.

Last week, the American College of Emergency Physicians warned of an uptick in emergency room visits related to the eclipse. The D.C. Department of Health isn’t expected to have any figures of “eclipse-related” emergency room visits until Tuesday, where they’ll be keeping tabs on chief complaints related to eyes.

But a spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS said that incoming calls around the time of the eclipse weren’t out of the ordinary and that the warnings about the dangers of looking to into the sun may have helped stem any eclipse-related emergencies.

On the National Mall in D.C., viewers saw about 80 percent of the total eclipse as it crossed from the northwest of the U.S. to the southeast coast. Those in the direct path of the eclipse experienced near-total darkness and were able to remove their glass for the few minutes that the moon eclipsed the sun.

There was little to no difference in brightness in the nation’s capital as the moon passed in front of the sun, although that didn’t stop the thousands of spectators from letting out whoops and cheers when peak coverage occurred at 2:42 pm.

Wren Walston, 11, and her 6-year-old sister Dahlia were a little disappointed that there wasn’t total darkness, but are looking forward to the next time a solar eclipse will cross over the U.S. in 2024, moving from the southwest to the northeast.

“It was great to come down and see it,” said their mother, Cine Walston. The family had traveled down from New York City for a planned vacation and picked up eclipse glasses outside the museum.

“It was fun to watch people share glasses, there was a lot of camaraderie,” she added.

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