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Man Warns About Watching Eclipse After One Big Mistake

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A man who was left with permanent eye damage from a 1962 eclipse is warning others not to make the same mistake he did.

In 1962, Lou Tomososki was walking home from school with a friend when they decided to look up at the sky. For several weeks, everybody had been talking about the solar eclipse taking place on that day, so the two high-schoolers wanted to see it for themselves.

The two teens looked up at the sun for several seconds. Tomososki remembers seeing flashes of light, as though a camera's flash had gone off. What he didn't realize is that that moment would affect him and his friend for the rest of their lives.

"We both got burned at the same time," he told Today. "He got the left eye and I got the right eye."

Tomososki said that his teachers at the time warned students about the eclipse and that they should use a pinhole projector box in order to view it, so as to not damage their eyes. He ignored the warning, however, and now has to deal with the effects more than 50 years later. To this day, Tomososki struggles to see out of his right eye.

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"We were just doing it for a short time," he said. "I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye."

With the total solar eclipse occurring in the U.S. on Aug. 21, Tomososki is sharing his story in order to help prevent others from making the same mistake.

"Millions of people out there are going to be looking out at it ... How many of them are going to say, 'Something happened to my eyes?'" he said. "That makes me sick."

According to Today, Tomososki experienced what is known as solar retinopathy -- a damaged retina caused by looking at the sun. People often experience solar retinopathy during eclipses because some believe that the sun's rays are not as powerful if it is partially covered by the moon.

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"Anyone who stares at the sun can get this blind spot," said professor of ophthalmology Dr. Russell N. Van Gelder, who is also a clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "When you know that you have a problem is if that blind spot has not gone away (the next day)."

Van Gelder said that in about half of his sun-affected patients, the blind spot diminishes the following day, but the other half suffers permanent damage.

"It is never safe to look directly at the sun," the doctor said. "The only way to treat solar retinopathy right now is to prevent it and not stare at the sun during the eclipse."

Those in areas experiencing a total eclipse will be able to look directly at the sun at one specific moment.

"When the disc of the moon has completely blocked out the sun and the corona of the sun is visible, it is safe to look at the corona," Van Gelder said. "The second the sun comes out, the eclipse glasses have to go back on."

According to The New York Times, the last time a total eclipse occurred over the United States was in 1918.

Sources: TodayThe New York Times / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: Lou Tomososky/Today

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