Dear Dr. Roach: My mother is very concerned about the upcoming solar eclipse; due to all the warnings about not watching it with the naked eye, she is afraid that one of us will “accidentally look at the sky and go blind.” All the articles on the internet seem to deal with eye safety while actually watching the eclipse. While I understand that it would be best not to look at the sun at all, I am pretty sure that accidentally glancing at it for a second or two would be unlikely to cause permanent, total blindness. Would you be able to confirm this so that I can reassure her?


Dear B.M.: It is never safe to look at the sun without eye protection when any part of the sun’s bright disk is visible. The only time it is safe to look at the sun during a total eclipse is when the sun is totally obscured by the moon.

However, the sun is no more dangerous during an eclipse than it is when there is no eclipse, and we all catch a glimpse of it from time to time. The concern is that, during the rare event that is a solar eclipse, we will be so interested that we will forget all the warnings and stare at the unprotected sun for a prolonged time, which can cause damage, sometimes permanent, to the retina. Fortunately, there are several ways to safely look at an eclipse.

One that anyone can do is to make a pinhole camera, which keeps you from looking directly at the sun. Or, for a few dollars, you can get a pair of ISO-certified eclipse-viewing glasses. These can be ordered from and many other places, but the site above has lots of good information about eye safety.

Dear Dr. Roach: As a 72-year-old woman (who feels like she’s 60), I noticed recently that I am losing hair. My hair is receding in the front and my part is getting wider. I also have some loss at the back of my scalp. My internist sent me to a dermatologist. She received several blood test results from my internist and scheduled additional blood tests. All my other tests (thyroid, CBC, colonoscopy, etc.) are normal.

My blood tests show that I’m low in iron (iron saturation is 10 percent). The dermatologist called and said that being low in iron could be one reason I’m losing hair. She also said it’s genetics (all in the family). She recommended I take biotin, iron and Rogaine orally; take a hair-growth vitamin; and use care when dying/blow-drying/curling my hair (meaning, do it less often).

Since taking Rogaine, my hair has become really frizzy (like Brillo) and dull-looking. It’s only been several weeks of following this program, but I’m wondering whether any of this will help. Since I first noticed my problem, I’ve noticed so many other women with this problem, as well.


Dear H.S.: My experience is that these recommendations, all of which are reasonable, have variable results. A few people will have dramatic benefit, a few none, but most will get some mild degree of benefit.

From the perspective of an internist, while I’m glad your colonoscopy was OK, I still would like to know why your iron level is low. I suggest that you get back with your internist to evaluate the other possibilities — of which malabsorption, particularly from celiac disease, probably is worth testing for.

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