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Patients asked to plan ahead for appointments during solar eclipse

Posted Mar 22nd, 2024

On April 8, Niagara will be one of the best spots in North America to view the rare total solar eclipse. This phenomenon is expected to attract thousands of visitors to Niagara to see the moon as it completely covers the sun.

Most Niagara Health appointments and clinics will operate on April 8. To prepare for an appointment, we ask that patients take the following steps:

  • Please plan ahead for increased traffic congestion and delays. Give yourself plenty of time to travel to your appointment.
  •  Get gas in advance of April 8 and plan your route to the hospital to avoid main roads and highways, where most of the congestion will be.
  • If you normally take a taxi or transit service, pre-arrange this ahead of time.
  • If you have a care provider or family member who drives you to appointments, please notify them that you need to plan for traffic delays.

Protect Yourself

Niagara Health Head of Service for Ophthalmology Dr. Amber Sheikh cautions people to be safe during the solar eclipse as sustained or high intensity light exposure from the eclipse will lead to permanent damage to the retina, also known as solar retinopathy.

“The damage from solar retinopathy is permanent with loss of central vision. No treatment is available,” she says.

Ideally people should always refrain from sungazing or eclipse viewing to avoid any risk of solar retinopathy. But if you are going to view the eclipse, it is important to use ISO (International Organization of Standardization) certified eclipse glasses. Even a regular welder's shield will not be adequate.

Niagara Region Public Health advises people use ISO-12312-2 certified eclipse glasses from a reputable vendor and in good condition, and never use regular sunglasses, or do-it-yourself filters. Public Health has information on how to tell if your solar eclipse glasses are safe, and where to buy them.

“Looking directly at the sun can be very dangerous and cause retinal burns, sight loss or blurred vision,” says Dr. Jessica Jackman, Niagara Region’s Associate Medical Officer of Health. “Because there are no pain sensors in your retinas, you won’t feel your eyes being damaged. This is why we want everyone to be aware of the need to wear proper solar eclipse glasses to protect their eyes.”

Sheikh recommends that people don’t remove these approved glasses at any point during the full eclipse. If the glasses are removed and not put back on in time, the light rays can cause photochemical permanent injury to your retina.

“Vulnerable individuals are young children, people with clear lenses (individuals that have undergone cataract surgery), people who are on certain drugs such as antibiotics like tetracycline, and some people with mental or psychiatric issues,” she says.

Niagara Health System