Are you suffering from ‘digital eye strain’?

From gadget addiction to constant air-conditioner exposure and poor hygiene practice, especially while changing contact lenses – is eye health suffering in the UAE?

As more and more people continue to spend hours each day looking at computers, cellphones, tablets and other electronic devices, a majority is going through what is called ‘digital eye strain’.

What this can lead to is dry, irritated eyes, fatigue, eye strain, blurry vision and headaches.

Dry eyes is one of the most common eye problems in the UAE. Hot weather and air-conditioning can cause dryness in the eyes, compounded by excessive computer use and lack of breaks during screen use.

Speaking about another common issue with youngsters, Dr Jay Kalliath, ophthalmology specialist and vitreoretinal surgeon at NMC Eyecare, Abu Dhabi, said many are careless while using contact lenses. “A patient visited us with complaints of severe redness of the eye. She had gone for an overnight stay and forgot to remove her contact lens while sleeping. When she woke up, her eyes were severe red. Wearing lenses while sleeping can affect the oxygenation of cornea. Careless use of lenses can also cause an eye infection. One needs to follow the right instructions while using contact lenses – washing hands before using lenses, using the recommended solution for storage and not using lenses beyond the expiry date.

He added that drinking at least two litres of water every day, taking short breaks while using the computer (20-second breaks after 20 minutes), and positioning the top of your computer screen slightly below eye level are a few ways to avoid eye strain.

Dr Kalliath also added that regular eye check-up is important to maintain eye health, because many eye diseases may not show symptoms. “Diabetes can also affect the eye retina. Most people are unaware of this, therefore, yearly eye check-ups will help in early treatment. Glaucoma, in particular, may not have any early symptoms. But it can cause blindness if untreated. Periodic eye check-up will help prevent vision loss.”

Dr Prem Tanwar, specialist ophthalmologist at the International Modern Hospital, Dubai, said: “Dry eyes and chronic allergic conjunctivitis are quite common in the UAE because of the hot climate, air-conditioning and electronic screens. We can’t avoid the hot climate or air-conditioning. But we can use gadgets and manage screen time.”

Giving an overview of eye issues, Dr Manish Jain, specialist ophthalmologist from Al Ain, said: “An unhealthy lifestyle can also contribute to poor eye health. Some of these factors are smoking, obesity, high sun exposure, unhealthy diets, and even certain medications.

UV rays can damage your eyes

“Protecting your eyes from overexposure to the sun is vital. UV rays can damage your eyesight and also trigger long-term effects at a later age. Wash your eyes often. Splash cold water in your eyes, as it helps them relax. Eating healthy is also extremely important. Your diet plays a significant role in controlling your eye problems and keeping them healthy. Sticking to a low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables is key to good eye health.

Jain added: “Also get adequate rest. Getting a solid seven to eight hours of sleep every day is not just for physical well-being but good eye health as well. They work hard all day and need rest at night.”

“The patient was operated for cataract and was put on a special implant from the US, used for the first time in Dubai. PanOptix, the implant is a trifocal lens offering a full range of vision – near, intermediate and distant vision,” he explained.

A.S. said he was thrilled to get rid of his glasses, cataract and astigmatism all in one go and didn’t have to go in for a multi-level conventional surgery. Post-operation, the patient’s vision is good and he is now completely lens-free.