World Sight Day is observed every year on October 14 worldwide to make people aware of the health of their eyes and to recognise the tremendous work by thousands of ophthalmologists across the world to fix vision impairment. Also called as as 'World Eye Day' or 'World Vision Day', the occasion aims to spread awareness about the significance of addressing the burden of vision impairment that causes disruption and discomfort in life.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from distant or near vision impairment. India accounts for over 20 per cent of the world's blind population, with villages contributing the most. The biggest causes of visual impairment in India is untreated cataracts and refractive errors, News18 reported.
COVID-19 And Eye Health
While eye health problems have always been a cause of concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated this issue drastically. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have resulted in significant changes in the lifestyle resulting in stress and poor health, including eyes.
As per the latest studies, there have been prominent vision-based indicators of Covid-19. The virus has the ability to spread through the eyes, as much as it can spread through the nose and mouth. Some of these problems related to eyes include pink eye infection ((conjunctivitis), eye fatigue, eye soreness, photophobia, increased cases of myopia among students post lockdown.
According to a study published in the medical journal Radiology earlier this year, patients with severe COVID-19 may be at risk for certain eye abnormalities. Initiated by the French Society of Neuroradiology, the study used MRI scans to find significant abnormalities in the eyes of some people with severe COVID-19. The scans showed one or more nodules on the back of the eye.
The researchers said that the nodules might be related to inflammation triggered by the virus and inadequate drainage of the veins around the eyes due to patients remaining in the prone position for a significant amount of time.
These conditions and staying in the ICU can all take a toll on a person's eye health. For people who are hospitalised for COVID-19, simply being in bed can be a risk. Staying in a supine position for an extended period of time could affect these blood vessels' drainage.
Long Screen Time
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many people to work remotely and spend many hours before computer screens. Many spent their leisure glued to their mobile phones. Such activities cause eye strain, dry eyes, red eyes, eye twitching, headaches, blurry vision and near-sightedness. Ultraviolet rays from the sun have the shortest wavelength, high energy and can damage our eyesight. Mobile phone and computer monitor screens emit blue light, which is closest to ultraviolet light in the energy spectrum and can also tire our eyes.
As per a report by The Times of India, COVID-19 has the potential to cause 'vision attack', which can result in blindness if not treated on time. Experts said that cases of acute loss of vision had been witnessed among COVID patients, especially the elderly and those with comorbidities.
Dr P Ranganadham, senior consultant neuro-surgeon, Sunshine Hospitals in Hyderabad's Gachibowli, told TOI that loss of vision due to the virus could be for three reasons, "First, COVID-19 has a tendency to block blood vessels, including those to the retina. If the supply is interrupted, it leads to vision loss. Both arteries and veins get affected by blood clots," he said.
"Secondly, it could be attack by a virus called Herpes zoster ophthalmicus, where patients admitted in ICU on ventilator and steroids are most vulnerable. Steroids reduce immunity among patients and produce painful viral lesions, which later result in loss of vision. The third reason is a fungal attack called mucormycosis. The fungus damages the bony barriers from nose to orbit, eyeballs and optic nerves," he added.
Break From Screen: Doctors suggest that people should always follow a 20-20-20 rule and look away from their screens every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and look at something at a distance of 20 feet. They also stressed special blue light filtering reading glasses, screen protectors or sunglasses to minimise the damage to the eyes.
Healthy Diet: Antioxidant-rich vitamins C and E, certain carotenoids, zinc and copper help in reducing degeneration of the eyes. Orange, carrots, strawberries, peas, cauliflower, cabbages, papaya, pumpkin, spinach, cashew, tomatoes, peanuts, almonds are good sources of such nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fishes like salmon and tuna, walnuts and flaxseeds also help reduce eye damage.
Regular Check-Ups: According to the doctors, it is important to get one's eyes tested regularly. Dr Parikshit Gogate, president of Maharashtra Ophthalmology Society, told The Indian Express that people suffering from glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy missed out on their regular eye check-ups due to the pandemic.
"In the last one-and-a-half year, cataract surgery in most public and NGO hospitals got affected. Paediatric eye surgeries were postponed as the government had to ration oxygen supply and elective surgical procedures became a casualty," he said.
RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, said that in accordance with this year's theme `love your sight', people should get a regular eye check-up done.In India, an estimated 270 million people were reported having vision loss in 2020. Of these, around 53 per cent account for women.