Cleveland Clinic ophthalmologist, Nicole Bajic, MD, shares insights from the path of totality


Nicole Bajic, MD, from the Cole Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic shares her insights in preparing patients for the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Nicole Bajic, MD, from the Cole Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic shares her insights in preparing patients for the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Cleveland, Ohio is in the path of totality, making this information crucial at a local and national level as thousands of travelers are expected to travel to watch this astronomical event.

In the interview, Bajic shares the value of communicating with patients during appointments, providing information in their post-appointment materials, and working in the community to share eye safety tips. She also notes the importance of making certain eclipse glasses are verified and not to use unsafe methods to watch the sun.

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Video Transcript

Sydney M. Crago: Hi, I'm Sydney Crago, editor of Modern Retina, and I'm here today with Dr. Bajic to talk about the solar eclipse. Dr. Bajic, how are you communicating with patients on the public, and the public on the importance of eye safety during the solar eclipse?

Nicole Bajic, MD: Great question. So here at Cleveland Clinic, we've actually been working a lot with both local and national media to help get the word out. Because surprisingly, the patients have been seeing it and commenting it, you know, at their, you know, exams with me, you know, get the, reach the people where they are, right? But for others that may not be, you know, watching the local news or, you know, keeping, you know, abreast of the local, you know, hot topics, I think it's really important to, you know, talk to your patients, you know, after you examine them, you know, if the eclipse comes up, you know, you can mention some, you know, eye safety tips. We also have an after visit summary handout. So, you know, with our electronic medical records, we have a dot phrase that we had made up as a department, and so we can just easily pop that into their after visit summary. So, you know, patients, even if they don't bring it up, you know, they'll have the, you know, information as reading material for later.

SC: And then, how are you concerned about potential damage from the solar eclipse? What things may you be seeing in practice?

NB: That's a great question. So, you know, for those that have been educated, you know, on eye safety, my biggest concern comes with the potential for counterfeit glasses that has been, you know, floating around. So we've been hearing, you know, anecdotal reports of some glasses that, you know, claim to have the proper ISO filter on them. That's ISO 12312-2. And some, unfortunately, are, allegedly, just slapping on the the title on the glasses. And so, one thing that we like to highlight is the American Astronomical Society has a list of verified sources. And so, that's what we would recommend for our patients to check out, or at least cross check, that the brand that they're getting is, you know, on that list of verified sources so that they're using proper protection.

SC: What would you say to your fellow ophthalmologists out there who may be communicating with patients around this subject?

NB: Especially in, if you're regarding to the post-eclipse influx of patients that might be coming in, it can be subtle, this solar retinopathy. So, you know, a lot of times patients will deny a history of sun-gazing, and, you know, you want to look for, you know, the classic findings, and you can use, you know, several imaging modalities in order to get a better idea, like FAF, or an, of course, OCT as well as the dilated fundus exam. So, you know, have it on the differential, even if the patient denies sungazing. And just keep it in mind.

SC: And then, Cleveland happens to be in the path of totality. Do you plan to watch the solar eclipse?

NB: Yes, we're very excited. We're actually going to have a presence at the Cleveland Guardians game. So, we're going to be doing eye safety segments, you know, leading up to the game, and we're very excited, although I hear traffic might be somewhat of an issue then. So, that's one thing we have to figure out.

SC: Is there anything else you'd like to share on this subject of the solar eclipse?

NB: Yes, so you know, in addition to counseling, you know, your patients to make sure that, you know, they're doing proper, you know, safety tips, I am concerned about children, you know, so they can be a little bit harder to wrangle and, you know, make sure they're, you know, complying with what you say, right? So, you know, if you have a child at home that's young, and you know, isn't going to be listening to directions, keep them inside. If they're not reliable enough that you can trust that they're going to keep on the eclipse glasses, you know, don't even you know, have them out there to have the potential for solar retinopathy. The other thing too, I would mention, so some people think that you can just use the eclipse glasses over you know, their cell phone or binoculars or telescope in order to you know, view the eclipse, but that's actually not safe too, That has a potential for theoretically burning a hole through the glasses, and so we don't recommend that, as well. If you wanted to use binoculars or telescope, etc, you would need a proper solar filter for that particular piece of equipment. And the other thing too, that we frequently get asked about is, "well I got a pair of really dark sunglasses at home, can I use that?" and no, you cannot because the eclipse glasses are actually 1000 times darker than regular sunglasses. So although it might be tempting to use what you have at home, unfortunately for this, you really do need to buy the proper, the proper tools.

SC: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to speak with me, and I really look forward to getting this information out to everybody.

NB: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

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