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Coronavirus and the Decline of Eye Health – The Side Effects of a Pandemic

The world is still dealing with the pandemic that has left a path of distress in its wake.

Although its impact is apparent in many sectors, the stark reality is that the coronavirus crisis has affected how we care for (and use) our eyes. According to experts, eye health is at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How so? You may have noticed the following...

Increased Screen Time

Before the pandemic, many of us spent hours in front of computers every day. Since the stay-at-home directives took hold, an ever-increasing number of people now use mobile devices and computers with higher frequency.

There are zoom meetings, online schooling, social media, and people are now spending more time staring at their mobiles and laptops than before the pandemic.

While zoom meetings and online schooling are necessary, eye conditions like myopia, eye pain, and dry eye syndrome are rising.

According to an analysis by the American Journal of Ophthalmology, this increased digital screen time, near work, and limited outdoor activities were found to be associated with the onset and progression of myopia (nearsightedness), and could potentially be aggravated during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak period.  

Minimal Access to Eye Care

People no longer go for routine eye check ups due to concerns about virus exposure.

In fact, many eye health programs suspended activities to keep the spread of the virus under control. Even people who already have chronic eye problems since the pandemic began are missing appointments.

Delay is Risky

Regular eye care and eye tests are vital for people with both urgent and non-urgent eye conditions.

Degenerative eye diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy require regular attention to prevent vision loss and disease progression.

Other urgent eye conditions include:

  • Eye injury
  • Eye pain
  • Sudden change in vision
  • Blurry vision or Vision Loss
  • Floaters 
  • Redness or irritation of eyes
  • Prescription refill or glasses change 

Some eye conditions may not be apparent until a test is done. For instance, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until it has damaged about 40% of the nerve cells, leading to irreversible blindness.

 Eye exams can help with early detection, guiding doctors to slow it down and prevent irreversible damage.

Taking Care of Your Eyes

The good news is, now that people are being made aware of this problem, they can be proactive in finding solutions! Some easy steps we can all implement right away are:

Get an Eye Exam

If you have any eye issues, require eye care, or have not had an eye exam in years, contact your doctor immediately. Medical facilities and eye care professionals are taking extra COVID precautions to protect themselves and their patients. 

Your eyes are important, and COVID-19 concerns shouldn’t be reason enough to neglect your eye health. Before visiting a doctor, ensure you take all precautions and adhere to the CDC guidelines for eye health to keep yourself safe. 

Get Enough Rest

You need to take care of yourself to maintain good eyesight. This includes sleeping at least 7 hours a day. To increase the chance for a good night’s sleep, stop using computers and mobile devices with screens 40 to 60 minutes before you sleep. 

Research has revealed that blue light from screens can inhibit the release of melatonin, a hormone that controls the sleep–wake cycle.

Practice the 20-20-20 Rule

Heavy use of smartphones and computers can cause severe eye strain. An effective way of reducing eye strain is to follow the 20-20-20 rule:

  • Focus on objects that are 20 ft away
  • Take a break every 20 minutes 
  • Look away from your computer for about 20 seconds 
  • Surround yourself with the right lighting

This pandemic has put into perspective how important it is to take care of ourselves. We have all taken extra steps to keep ourselves and others healthy during these times. With vision being one of our most important senses, why should our eye health be any different?

During these uncertain times, one thing remains clear: eye health matters, and we can all take steps to take care of it, even during a pandemic.

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