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Practical Protection

Safeguard Your Vision with Glasses, Timely Treament

By Amy Morgan


The eclipse is coming April 8. San Antonio and the surrounding area will witness almost total darkness in the middle of the day for the first time since 1397! You’ll want to view this event, but don’t be fooled — despite its apparent disappearance, the sun is still not safe to look at with unprotected eyes. 


Without proper eye protection you can suffer “eclipse blindness” – a serious injury in which the eye’s retina is damaged by solar radiation within seconds of staring at the sun, according to the American Optometric Association.


Regular sunglasses are not enough. 


To allow locals the opportunity to safely view this once-in-their-lifetime celestial event, the Physicians Premier freestanding emergency rooms will offer free eclipse glasses starting April 1 at their locations on Potranco Road, Cibolo, Corpus Christi and in Bulverde, just west of Highway 281 on Highway 46 near the HEB Plus, while supplies last.  


“Hopefully, we’ll protect a few eyeballs,” said Lonnie Schwirtlich, M.D., an emergency physician with 42 years of experience and founding partner of Physicians Premier.


Dr. Schwirtlich and his colleagues also treat many other eye ailments.  

Often a patient comes in because their eye is irritated and red. If the drainage from the tear ducts is clear, it usually is due to an allergy and can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops, he said. If the eye is draining white or green pus, it has become infected and needs antibiotics. 


Any type of eye infection should not be ignored, he said. He’s seen ulcers that eat all the way through the eyeball, causing a permanent loss of vision. Dr. Schwirtlich stressed a patient should NOT use steroid eye drops for that condition as it will block the body’s immune response and make the infection worse rather than better. 


Another tell-tale sign that an individual should seek medical attention is when the eye becomes so sensitive to light it is painful to open. This can happen if the retina has been burned by viewing light from direct sunlight or a welder’s flame. Dr. Schwirtlich will administer pain medication and patch the eye to allow it to heal. 


Treatment is similar for one who is experiencing symptoms due to a foreign body in the eye. Dr. Schwirtlich’s seen gravel, dust, or metal perforate the eye’s surface and cause pain and aversion to light. 


A chemical burn needs to be flushed with water to remove the toxin, then “Get in and get checked,” Dr. Schwirtlich said, as he can use specialized equipment to continue to irrigate the eye further. 


Another type of eye problem might involve a blow to the area. A sudden strike can cause a temporary loss of vision. Any eye blow should be checked immediately to rule out retinal detachment or perforation. A hallmark symptom that the eye’s retina is detaching is a sudden onset of vision loss without pain. Dr. Schwirtlich said people describe it as a “curtain that comes over the eye.” It can be treated with laser surgery if caught quicky, but if someone waits too long, it is not repairable.  


A blow also could cause blood to pool in the eye, disrupting the fluid equilibrium and leading to glaucoma. Glaucoma is characterized by eye pain that causes a headache. A person’s vision will gradually decrease down to a tunnel as the fluid pressure in the eye increases. The eyeball may be tinged with red and become painful, he added. Physicians will prescribe an eyedrop that allows the eye to drain, or they can open the ducts surgically. 


Preserve your precious vision. Don’t ignore eye problems and wear eclipse glasses to watch this month’s momentous event. 

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