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Were you safely watching the eclipse? Local doctor talks eye damage

Posted at 9:32 PM, Aug 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 04:07:02-04

The much-anticipated solar eclipse is now over but two questions remain:

Did you look into the sky without those special glasses? When will know if you damaged your eyes?

RELATED: More solar eclipse coverage

WPTV spoke to a local eye doctor who said he surprisingly got plenty of calls from people wondering if they could look directly at the sun or even use sunglasses while watching the eclipse.

"I'm surprised at how many people don't know you can't look directly at the sun, even when there isn't an eclipse," said Dr. Dominick Marino, an optometrist for Gardens Vision Boutique in Palm Beach Gardens. "Sunglasses don't offer protection. It doesn't block the infrared light."

On Monday, millions of people watched the total solar eclipse, which was the first eclipse to pass across the entire United States from coast to coast in almost 100 years.

Only NASA-approved solar glasses guaranteed protection for your eyes but there were lots of knock offs online.

Dr. Marino said you might not know right off the bat if your eyes were damaged by the eclipse.

Symptoms of eye damage include loss of vision, light sensitivity and pain in your eyes.

"You may notice a spot, you may notice a complete loss of central vision or just blur depending on the length of exposure," said Marino.

Severe damage would involve a burned retina. In that case, you would have a blind spot in your vision that might not come back.

"Corneal keratitis would be like a sunburn on your cornea, the external part of the eye. Your eyes would feel scratchy, sandy light sensitivity," said Dr. Marino. "In a comprehensive eye examination you can pick those things up."

Some people were also using welding masks as impromptu solar glasses. Marino adds there is a risk to doing this.

"Especially if it was not the right wavelength. It might not protect you completely and can cause damage," he said.

Dr. Marino stresses that if you have any of these symptoms -- or are even worried about your eyes after Monday's solar eclipse -- don't be afraid to schedule a visit with your eye doctor.

If you still have your solar glasses, you might want to hold on to them if you plan to travel outside of Florida for the next eclipse. The next solar eclipse to cross a good portion of the United States will occur on April 8, 2024, which will move from Maine down to Texas. Click here to learn more.

If you want to do some good with your glasses, the Astronomers Without Borders organization is collecting them so that children will be able to use them in future eclipses.

The organization says it will soon announce a program dedicated to redistributing glasses to schools in Asia and South America, where there will be solar eclipses in 2019.

In Palm Beach County, you can drop off you glasses at the Mandel Public Library and the Waterfront Visitors Center on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach.

Please email for more information.