A woman undergoes an eye checkup. Picture used for illustrative purposes.
In an attempt to shed light on the increasing vision issues faced by the UAE population, Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman, conducted a virtual event highlighting common eye problems. Organised as part of Thumbay Group's 'Online Summer Healthcare Festival', the session also guided the attendees on how to identify and tackle the various issues and provided tips on healthy habits for good eye health.
Thumbay University Hospital confirmed that 50% of patients visiting their OPD presented symptoms of myopia (nearsightedness) which can be attributed to the increase in screen time. As almost 1.1 million students have been studying from home, screen usage is at an all-time high. Individuals are spending a whopping 12-17 hours in front of their screens on a daily basis, which is a direct contributor to poor eye health.
Over two-thirds of the UAE population suffers dry-eye which is far higher than the global average. Talking about the increasingly common occurrence of dry-eye, Dr. Mohamed Ahmed Wassfi, Consultant Ophthalmology at Thumbay University Hospital, recommended device-free break time, use of anti-glare glasses, taking small breaks from the screen, and preservative-free eye lubricants.
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Giving interesting insights regarding how uncorrected eye problems can lead to issues in the other parts of the body, he emphasised the importance of optimum eye health. He mentioned that uncorrected eye problems could cause abnormal postures, leading to muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, neck strain, shoulder spasms, and severe headaches. Improperly manufactured glasses can lead to these same issues, especially in the case of bifocal glasses.
Dr Wassfi highlighted that even though dry-eye is not a disease, it can predispose the eye to numerous other ocular pathologies such as ocular allergies. Eye-allergies can present themselves as eye redness, itching, irritation, white or yellow discharge, frequent eye-rubbing, and can cause blurry vision in severe cases. He stressed device-free break time, along with the application of ice covered with tissue to reduce itching. In the persistence of the issue, he recommended meeting the eye specialist as anti-allergy medicines might be needed. He strictly advised against the usage of over-the-counter eye whiteners and medicines containing steroids as they can do more harm than good.
A doctor examines the eyes of a patient.
The consultant further provided insights on how these infections occur. He explained the process in detail, specifying that a combination of dry-eye and eye allergy can close the pores in the lid margin, which cause the accumulation of fatty material inside the lid, commonly known as a stye. The symptoms to look out for include white/yellow swelling on the lid margin, eyelid pain, swelling and pus-like discharge from the eyes. Application of heat compress must be done in the initial stages of a small stye, whereas an eye specialist must be consulted in the presence of a large stye.
Talking about refractive error, where an individual isn't able to see efficiently, the increasing cases in children are caused by the harsh weather of the UAE. He cited the reasons of excessive screen use, lack of exposure to natural light, and excessive glare to be the cause of near-sightedness, which ultimately leads to the need for glass correction.
The common symptoms found across children and individuals from the IT sector are headaches in the front portion of their head, eye-ache, eye and face tics, abnormal head posture, learning disabilities, and blurring distance objects. He further recommends getting a regular checkup done with a visit to the eye specialist at least once a year. Special caution must be taken if one or more parent or siblings wears glasses in the family.
Online schooling is a part of life. A significant proportion of academic material will be provided through online methods. "We advise parents that they must try to minimise the non-academic or extra-curricular screen time. It is not possible to completely stop if your child is used to spending a significant portion of his day on the screen. Try to minimise the non-academic time to half an hour per day. Try to minimise your screen time yourself if you want your child to reduce their screen usage. Lastly, provide other avenues of entertainment."
A safe and ergonomic viewing environment must be created to prevent refractive errors from occurring, especially with the increase in screen time. We recommend sitting in a room with a view where individuals can focus on distant objects to relax the focus mechanism of their eyes. The screen must be at an adequate viewing distance and either at eye level or facing down at fifteen degrees. The room should be well lit, preferably with natural light.
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