AS PEOPLE are required to stay home during the movement control order to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us are relying on smart devices for work or leisure.
“Prolonged screen time of more than two hours can lead to digital eye strain, which causes eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eye disease (DED) as well as neck and shoulder pain.
“DED can affect adults who are always facing the screen working from home as well as children who are exposed to longer screen time via e-learning during this period,'' said Vista Eye Specialist consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and refractive surgeon Dr Vienne Tai.
Dr Tai was one of the experts from Vista Eye Specialist who spoke on causes, effects and solutions to maintaining good eye health after a gruelling MCO at a recent live webinar session on Preparing for Post MCO: Are Your Eyes Ready?
Studies show that 25% of patients who visit ophthalmic clinics report symptoms of dry eye, making it a growing public health problem and one of the most common conditions seen by eye care practitioners.
“A meta-analysis estimated an overall prevalence of DED, specifically in those who use electronic devices, is at 45.9%, which is a relatively high number.
“Aside from prolonged screen time, other factors that can cause DED includes ageing; dry environment such as air-conditioned area; lack of Omega-3 intake; post-lasik surgery effect; patients with medical conditions such as diabetic and thyroid; inflammation of lid margin; as well as certain medications including antihistamine and for hypertension,” said Dr Tai, adding that females are more prone to DED because of hormonal changes.
“Look out for symptoms like gritty, stinging and burning sensation in eyes, redness, tired eyes, watery eyes, itchiness, intermittent blurry vision and sensitivity to light,” she said.
To care for eyes, Dr Tai advised practising the 202020 rule – for every 20 minutes spent on a screen, look away at something 20ft (6m) away for 20 seconds – on top of setting optimum screen brightness, applying artificial tears, cleaning eyelids after shower and using a warm compression over eyes.
“If all else fails, seek medical consultation for treatments suited to your condition. Treatments available are environmental, dietary and medication adjustments, lubricating treatments, anti-inflammatory treatments and meibomian gland treatments,” she said.
At the webinar moderated by optometrist Carmen Tham, senior consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and refractive surgeon Dr Alan Koh spoke about the importance of early detection and treatment for cataracts.
“Statistics from the 2016 National Eye Survey showed that 216,000 Malaysians have become blind due to cataract and it is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40.
“Malaysians tend to delay treatment hoping that the condition will get better. The fact is that delaying surgery will not only cause their vision to deteriorate over time but also lead to other eye diseases such as glaucoma.
“Additionally, poor vision can cause incidences of injuries as a result of not being able to perform daily tasks properly such as driving and walking, which could lower patients’ confidence and self-esteem too,” said Dr Koh.
He emphasised that cataract surgery is the most effective way to restore vision, even for the elderly.
With today’s technological advancements, Dr Koh explained that no-blade cataract surgery can be done in three simple steps.
“The procedure is fully computerised to ensure personalised femtosecond laser incision, capsulotomy and lens fragmentation, which reduces the possible human errors.
“After which, intraocular lenses can be designed to address additional visual concerns. For instance, the modern trifocal IOL allows for good far, intermediate distance vision and close-up focus.”
Consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and refractive surgeon Dr Anson Teh presented on common eye symptoms.
“In general, eye symptoms can be grouped into three categories – vision loss or disturbance, abnormalities in sensation and appearance of the eye and its surrounding parts, including the eyelids and orbit.
“There are different types of vision problems like double vision, distorted vision, floaters and flashes or colour and night vision disturbances.
“Abnormalities in sensation most often involve pain or discomfort, with different qualities and severity such as foreign body sensation, burning, photophobia, itchiness, tearing or tiredness while symptoms related to the appearance of the eye are such as redness, discharge, eyelid abnormalities, eyeball protrusion, squint and abnormal lumps or growth.
“Most patients will have a few symptoms such as sudden blurring of vision with eye redness and pain,” shared Dr Teh.
He explained that the four most common causes of gradual and painless loss of vision are cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.
“Since these conditions are painless, it doesn’t prompt patients to seek medical consultation urgently, which causes vision impairment or blindness in the long run.
“Most causes of sudden vision loss come from blood vessel problems like blockage or bleeding while some are caused not by the eye itself but from the brain such as stroke,” he added.
Dr Teh urged patients who are experiencing sudden and persistent visual loss or change, severe eye pain or trauma and injuries to see an eye specialist immediately.
“Every common eye symptom can have many causes, some of which are mild and others which are serious.
“If you have any doubts about your eye condition, it is better to see a professional early rather than wait for it to get better on its own. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry,” he concluded.
Preparing for Post MCO: Are Your Eyes Ready? is Vista Eye Specialist’s first healthcare webinar within this region and it has garnered a total of 505 and 127 concurrent users at peak on Zoom and Facebook Live respectively.
Due to encouraging response, more sessions are in the pipeline to create awareness on eye health.
The webinar session was organised in collaboration with Vista Laser Eye Center Sdn Bhd and Star Media Group.