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Here's what actually happens if you look at the solar eclipse without glasses

Will looking at the sun make you go blind?

We all know we shouldn't stare at the sun – not even when there's a solar eclipse – because something bad will happen.

But what, exactly? Will you go completely blind, like some people claim?

GoMN spoke with Dr. Joshua H. Hou – an ophthalmologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota – to learn more about how sunlight affects your vision. 

It damages your retina

Your retina is the part of your eye that senses light. You can look at a diagram here.

If you think of the eye as a camera, Hou said the retina would be the film. 

Basically, the high intensity of the sun's light can damage the retina and even kill some of its cells.

We asked how long it'd take to suffer damage, and Hou said there really hasn't been any testing because you can't just ask people to stare at the sun and fry their eyes. So just don't ever give the sun more than a glance. 

No, you probably won't go blind

Hou said there's actually no documentation of people going blind from looking at the sun. However, it can cause a lot of other issues. 

Your vision could become distorted, you could have issues seeing colors, or you could end up with a debilitating blind spot. 

These things usually go away in three to six months, Hou said. But sometimes the damage is permanent and there's not much you can do to fix it. 

Is looking at a solar eclipse more dangerous?

According to Dr. Hou, it's just as dangerous to look at a solar eclipse as it is to look at the sun. 

The reason there are so many warnings regarding solar eclipses is that people have a tendency to stare for longer periods of time. Even if it looks pretty dark, you shouldn't do that. 

Make sure you wear protective glasses. You can learn more about finding safe ones here. 

Hou said lenses with a shade grade of 14 only let in .003 percent of light. Regular sunglasses let in 1000 times more than that.

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