Coronavirus and Eye Health

With the recent and current Coronavirus Pandemic closing and restricting business’ and healthcare provisions worldwide the question needs to be asked if the nations eye heath has been effected beyond repair?

It has been over 6 months since the Prime Minister closed the country for all none essential business’ and healthcare provisions. This included Opticians, and Eye Heath Specialists, only emergency appointments were allowed for a very long time and many suffered at home, missing eye health appointments and eye tests. Many people ran out of contact lenses, or wore out of date or broken glasses for months, many of whom are still struggling with this.

The Coronavirus lock down has also had an unforeseen consequence regarding eye accidents: Oxford Eye Hospital has seen an increase in emergency eye injuries from DIY projects people have been attempting at home. The severity of injuries has been vast, some requiring operations. In one week the hospital reported to treat 6 ’traumatised eyes’, that compare to one such injury every one to two weeks states Oxford Eye Hospital. As a result of this the hospital has urged people to wear eye protection such as safety goggles or specs while doing DIY or gardening.

Our eyes may also play an important role in the spread and prevention of Corona Virus itself, the NHS advises that you do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean. It is the mucus membranes within the body that are most susceptible to transmission of the virus. Oxford Eye Hospital has recommended wearing glasses during this time rather than contact lenses, to protect your eyes and reduce the spread of Corona Virus due to touching the eye. “Wearing glasses at the moment reduces the risk of contact lens related complications, and reduces the need to touch your face” Oxford Eye Hospital consultant Stella Hornby said. The hospital’s recommendation mirrors that of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which has said glasses can serve as a barrier to airborne droplets containing the virus.

This however does not look forward to how eye health will be dealt with and looked at in the ‘new normal’ the IAPB (International Association for the Prevention of Blindness) conducted a question and answer session with Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, Chief Mission Officer at Essilor International (“The world’s leading ophthalmic optics company”) below is an interesting excerpt from the article which discusses this very point:

“Do you think the current pandemic actually has the potential to impact efforts to improve eye health?

The increase in hand-washing and general consciousness towards better hygiene will have an overall positive impact on general health. It could also limit the spread of eye infections — like trachoma — which normally spread due to touch and contact. In fact, people wearing glasses have less tendency to touch their faces than people without glasses, meaning a lesser chance of infection.But there’ll be other issues because of the time people are spending indoors on screens, whether it’s online learning or working from home. On one hand, this is great because it doesn’t compromise the quality of education or the ability of people to continue working. On the other, staring at screens constantly, combined with reduced time outdoors, can cause eye fatigue, dryness, and accelerate the rate of short-sightedness, or myopia.In the future, there’ll be an increased focus on public health, and eye health should be at the top because it is a cross-cutting issue.International organizations like the World Health Organization will continue to play a leading role. In fact, as WHO continues its leadership in managing the COVID-19 situation, it could be easy to forget the work it does across many other important health issues including vision care, for example, its “World Report on Vision” published last October to galvanize action toward eye health.”

Hopefully Eye Health will soon be given the priority it needs again and new ways of working during the Pandemic and after will be learnt and implemented to help those affected. Advice however is in abundance concerning our ‘new normal’ and all that comes along with this.

To mark 6/6 (6 June 2020), the College of Optometrists issued advice for the general public to help them look after their eyes while in lockdown. 6/6 and 20/20 are lines on a sight test chart that many people refer to as a good level of vision. 20/20 vision is a term for visual acuity (the clarity of your eyesight) and 6/6 is the British version of this term. 

In the current lockdown, with many people working and schooling from home, you may be feeling Teams tired or Zoomed out. Here are three tips to help your eyes in virtual meetings:

  • Make meetings shorter, more productive and better for your eyes by incorporating the 20/20/20 rule. Limit virtual meetings to 40 minutes, with a mid-time break to rest your eyes and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Remember to blink. Focusing on a screen or your webcam may make you blink less effectively, which may make your eyes dry and uncomfortable.
  • Wear your glasses if they have been recommended for looking at computer screens. If you are experiencing eye strain despite taking regular breaks, contact your optometrist, they will be able to provide support over the phone, and arrange a consultation if you have symptoms that are urgent or have an essential need.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser at The College of Optometrists says; “We know that many people are concerned about their vision following what is a natural increase in screen time. Hopefully our tips will help with any headaches or vision strain, and it is important to remember that watching too much TV or being very close to a computer screen may make your eyes tired or give you a headache – particularly if you are watching TV in the dark – but won’t cause any permanent damage. At the moment, optometrists in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England, have suspended routine eye examinations but are still offering urgent, emergency and essential eye care. If you are worried about your eyes or your vision, you can phone your optical practice.”

Please if you are concerned for your eye health or notice any sudden changes to eye health, call 111 and follow their advice. We would like everybody to stay safe and well. For more information about eye health and coronavirus please see the below links:

https://www.rnib.org.uk/sight-loss-advice/eye-health/what-do-if-you-are-worried-about-your-vision-during-coronavirus

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

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