The effect of the pandemic on eye health | Why is it a concern?

We don’t need an eye health week to discuss the importance of vision care and regular eye exams. However, some people fail to recognise the significance of their vision to their well-being and standard of living. And to make matters worse, lockdown happened. 

Lockdown was important to control the spread of the deadly virus. But, having so much spare time at our hands gave rise to some unhealthy habits such as screen time. 

Now if you don’t know, research by Deloitte Access Economics, a total of 2986 people have said to lost their eyesight due to delay in diagnosis and treatment of eye ailments. This research has laid down the effects of lockdown and the pandemic on people’s eye health in the UK. 

As the first lockdown only allowed optometry services to emergency cases, the research aimed to assess and address the resulting issues for the eyecare sector. Even when the optometry services were restricted, certain eyewear companies were providing vision help to help via contactless delivery of online glasses. But, it’s sad to know that the eye health of people in the UK received a major blow in the pandemic. 

Lockdown and digital eye strain

Research led by Fight for Sight, which is an eye health charity in the UK found that 38% of people with increased screen time during lockdown reported visual symptoms. These symptoms include difficulty reading, migraines, eye pain and poor night vision. 

In a survey of 2000 people, half of them used screens a lot more during the pandemic than they usually do. As a result, 38% of them believed that their eyesight has gone even worse. 

This is a fair outcome of high screen time. As our screens emit harmful blue waves that are unfocused and intense, they are able to do damage to our eyes. Continued exposure to blue light strains out your eye muscles and give rise to the problem known as digital eye strain. 

The symptoms of digital eye strain include blurry vision, eye pain, double vision, watery eyes and eye redness. 

If you’ve also found significant changes in your vision, seek the helpful advice of an optometrist. They will examine your eyes and determine whether you need further help from an ophthalmologist. In some cases, they’ll only ask you to limit your screen time and buy good quality blue light glasses in the UK

Eye tests in the UK in 2020

It is recommended by the NHS that you take regular eye exams. Those with vision problems should get these tests every year. And those whose eyesight is fine should get vision exams every two years. 

However, in the wake of the pandemic and amidst lockdown restrictions, 2020 witnessed a drop in eye tests by a whopping 23% as compared to 2019. Reportedly, around 4.3 million people did not get an eye test in 2020 in the UK. 

Not only this but the drop is also seen in the number of referrals to ophthalmology. Only 43,000 people were referred to ophthalmologists for suspected glaucoma out of which 2600 needed urgent treatment. 

People reluctance to get their eyes tested even after the situation got a little bit better is adding insult to the injury. Irregular tests don’t leave room for timely diagnosis which makes you more susceptible to eye problems and diseases. And if these diseases aren’t treated early, they lead to vision loss or impairment. 

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Eye tests after lockdown

Eye exams are crucial to detect problems in your vision while they could be treated. This is why healthy individuals should get eye exams every two years. Not only are diseases related to your eyes, but these tests can also give you insights into your health. 

Since these tests include examining the functions of the blood vessels, they can track signs of diabetes and depressions even before these diseases start to show up with symptoms. Regular eye tests can also warn you about your deteriorating ocular health ahead of time so you can take necessary measures to preserve your vision. 

If you have chronic conditions such as diabetes or if someone in your family has an eye disease, then you should get regular eye tests too. 

The NHS provide free eye tests to everyone younger than 16 or older than 60. If you’re into full-time education, then you can get these exams by 19 years of age. You’ll also get optical vouchers that you can use at stores supported by the NHS. 

Even when you don’t qualify for NHS eye tests, you can still get these exams for free from independent optometrists in the UK. 

Why should eye health be a priority?

Vision and eye health are important in gaining optimum physical health. Taking good care of both your physical health and your eyes will decrease the likelihood of eye diseases or vision loss in the future. So, have regular eye tests, eat healthy foods and reduce your screen time to better care for your eyes. Take breaks in between screen time sessions and sleep well to give rest to your eyes. 

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