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What’s the worst thing you can do to your eyes?

Answers by Mitchell Gossman, MD, an ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, located in St. Cloud

What’s the worst thing you can do to your eyes?

First things first, you can’t hurt your eyes by merely looking at ordinary things, no matter how blurry or dim.

There are many things that you can do to harm your eyes, but we’ll not bother with the obvious things like getting punched in an eye, and being hit by a projectile such as a bottle rocket or bullet.

1. Staring at the Sun

Bright light sources like the sun and an electric welder’s arc can both hurt your eyes, and both can potentially create permanent damage to your retina. Stock photo

The sun delivers enough light, which, when focused on a tiny spot on the retina, can burn it, causing permanent damage. It can’t blind an eye completely, but it can destroy the center of your vision and reduce your visual acuity, which allows fine details for reading. This loss of vision is permanent. This is not a common occurrence, mostly limited to people with mental illness and people accepting a dare to stare at the sun. It is also possible also to damage your eye looking at a solar eclipse if the sun emerges from the moon’s shadow before you have a chance to look away.

2. Looking at an electric welder’s arc

The bright light that occurs with electric welding is also bright enough to damage the retina with extended exposures. A much more common situation occurs because it also exposes your eye to intense ultraviolet radiation, the same spectrum of light that causes sunburn. This, in effect, burns the very sensitive cornea of your eye and is intensely painful. It generally doesn’t cause permanent damage, and the pain resolves in a few days unless you keep exposing yourself to the welder. Obviously wearing a welder’s mask prevents this, but when not wearing the mask it’s possible for the welder’s arc light to bounce off walls and indirectly damage your eye.

3. Ski without sunglasses

Especially at high altitude, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is intense, is increased by reflection from snow, and can damage your cornea with the same pain that occurs with the welder. This is called “snow blindness,” even though it isn’t a blinding condition, just a painful one, and is preventable with UV-protective ski goggles.

4. Failure to wear protective eyewear

Failure to wear protective eyewear in hazardous situations such as sports exposes the eye to severe damage. Games include golf, baseball, handball, racquetball, pickleball, target shooting, paintball, and so on.

5. Failure to undergo periodic eye exams

There are eye illnesses that can cause blindness and loss of vision that are preventable with early detection. It’s a good feeling getting a clean bill of health during an eye exam, and it’s almost as good a feeling realizing that you saved loss of vision by catching something early.

Find out more

Dr. Mitchell Gossman is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota. The office is located at 628 Roosevelt Road, Suite 101, in St. Cloud. To make an appointment or to learn more, call 320-774-3789 or email

“Ask the Expert” is sponsored content (paid advertising) provided by Eye Associates of Central Minnesota. To learn how your business can promote its products and services like this, contact Sr. Perspective at 320-334-3344.

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