The United States will experience a partial – and in some places total – solar eclipse on Aug. 21. This is a rare natural phenomenon that many Americans consider the must-watch event of the year. However, without proper eye protection, looking at a partial solar eclipse could cause permanent eye damage.
In most of the U.S., the eclipse will only be partial, meaning the entire sun won’t be blocked out by the moon. According to Dr. Deepinder Dhaliwal, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of refractive surgery and cornea service at the UPMC Eye Center, looking at a partial eclipse with the naked eye can be very dangerous.
”When looking at the sun, the eye takes in light through a lens that focuses it onto a delicate structure in the back of the eye known as the retina,” Dhaliwal said. “When sunlight becomes concentrated on the retina, it can result in a painless burn.”
This burn can result in irreversible blind spots in the vision that patients can’t receive treatment for.
“Picture the sun’s rays going through a magnifying glass and burning a hole through a leaf,” Dhaliwal said. “The same thing would be happening to your retina if you looked at the solar eclipse with a naked eye.”
To avoid retinal damage, Dhaliwal recommends solar eclipse viewers invest in official solar eclipse glasses. To avoid purchasing fake or low-quality glasses, the American Astronomical Society has compiled a list of reputable brands.
“They should have ‘ISO 12312-2’ printed somewhere on them,” Dhaliwal said.
Even after purchasing the glasses, proper use and caution is necessary to ensure eye safety. One common misperception is being able to look through a camera or a pair of binoculars with the glasses on.
“If you’re wearing your eclipse glasses, do not look through a pair of binoculars,” Dhaliwal said. “You need to have eclipse filters in the front of the binoculars. Just wearing the glasses is not enough.”
Any household object with holes in it, such as a colander, can also be used to cast a shadow of the sun to view the eclipse indirectly for no cost to the viewer. When the light is projected through the object’s holes, the shadow will morph into crescents once the eclipse occurs.
Those traveling to a location within the path of totality, where the sun will be completely covered by the moon, are safe to view the eclipse without any eye protection during those few minutes. In the rest of the country, however, eye protection needs to be worn.
“The eclipse is a spectacle to behold, but it isn’t worth losing your vision,” Dhaliwal said.
We asked Deborah Perl, lactation consultant at the Lactation Center of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, about some benefits of breastfeeding. The lactation center is a fully equipped resource to all new mothers and infants, and they are currently working toward gaining accreditation from Keystone 10, a quality improvement initiative that aims to protect, promote and support to all Pennsylvania infants and mothers.
What is a lactation consultant?
A. Lactation consultants are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and are breastfeeding specialists trained to teach mothers how to feed their baby. For some women, breastfeeding comes very naturally and for others it takes time, patience and a little extra support. Our trained lactation staff sees all new mothers during their postpartum hospital stay upon request or referral to ensure they are comfortable with breastfeeding. We teach moms breastfeeding techniques, we discuss feeding schedules and talk to moms about their fears and frustrations. We also help mothers who want to breastfeed but may need to, or choose to, supplement. We strongly feel that all new moms should supported and encouraged, regardless of their feeding decision.
What are some common challenges and available resources for breastfeeding mothers?
A. Some common challenges include uncomfortable or sore breasts and concern about the baby getting enough food. The Magee Lactation Center has plenty of available resources for mothers experiencing challenges including postpartum consultations for mothers with ongoing breastfeeding problems and a 24-hour service line to assist with any questions. The center also has recently expanded to a full-service retail center offering breast pump rentals, nursing and maternity bras, nursing pillows and a complete line of breastfeeding aids and accessories.
How does Magee support breastfeeding mothers?
A. We provide education and support to mothers before birth and throughout their breastfeeding journey. From prenatal classes to bedside consultations, we support a mother’s decision to breastfeed. In addition to providing resources for new mothers, the Magee Lactation Center provides support and education to hospital staff. We train registered nurses to properly assist new mothers with their babies.
For more information, call the Lactation Center at Magee at 412-641-1121 or visit their website.