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.

Undetected vision problems holding kids back

Optometry Australia (OA) has warned that thousands of children risk falling behind at school due to the increasing prevalence of undiagnosed myopia and other vision-related issues.

The peak national body cited statistics that indicated only 8% of Australian children aged 0–14 had had a comprehensive vision assessment in 2016, despite an estimated one in five suffering from an undetected vision problem.

OA’s resident optometrist, Mr Luke Arundel, said a lack of awareness was the primary cause for the low rate and that it was important for the public to understand the potential consequences undetected vision problems could have.

“The impact of not being able to see properly cannot be underestimated. Particularly amongst school-aged children, who may not be able to see their teacher, blackboards or education aids properly and may fall behind in learning and then start to lose confidence,” Arundel said.

“It’s an underserviced segment of the community. If you look at what our American colleagues are doing, they’re really pushing even further into children’s optometry and recommending that everyone has a check up at six months of age, then three and then regularly from there.

“It’s an area that’s super important. Poor vision really does effect these kids in a big way, and with 85% of blindness preventable or treatable with early detection we feel it’s also important to get the next generation of Aussies in the habit of regular health checks – something we have been promoting for the entire sector through the website and media campaigns.”

Arundel also said that while useful for picking up certain conditions, screening in schools was inconsistent and not a substitute for a comprehensive vision assessment.

“There’s certainly a place for vision screenings, but the problem with different state based regulations is there’s no uniformity or consistency across Australia. Some states do a great job, other states are doing a poor job, and it tends to flip-flop depending on who’s in government and how much money is being thrown around,” Arundel told Insight.

“At the end of the day, a screening’s just a screening, and its certainly not going to pick up everything. We recommend that all kids receive a comprehensive eye evaluation with an optometrist before starting school.”


7 Ways to Protect Your Eyes From Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Is the most common cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans over age 50, affecting about 2.1 million people nationwide. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to preventing vision loss. During February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is educating the public about the facts on AMD.

AMD is a degenerative disease that happens when part of the retina called the macula is damaged. It’s the part of the eye that delivers sharp, central vision needed to see objects straight ahead. Over time, the loss of central vision can interfere with everyday activities, such as the ability to drive, read, and see faces clearly.

Ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – have more tools than ever before to diagnose the disease earlier, and to treat it better. But these advances cannot help patients whose disease is undiagnosed, or patients who are unaware of the seriousness of their disease. People’s lack of understanding about AMD is a real danger to public health. A recent study showed that most people with AMD don’t realize it’s a chronic health issue that requires regular attention for the rest of their lives.

The Academy offers these seven steps to help people take control of their eye health:

  1. Get regular comprehensive medical eye exams. AMD often has no early warning signs, so getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist is critical to diagnosing and treating the eye disease in its early stages. The Academy recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. By age 65, the Academy recommends getting an exam every one to two years, even in the absence of symptoms or eye problems.
  2. Quit smoking. Numerous studies show smoking increases the risk of developing AMD, and the speed at which it progresses. Smokers are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. Many studies demonstrate that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and nutrient-packed foods, such as salmon and nuts, may reduce the risk of AMD. Research also suggests that patients who ate fresh fish, an important source of omega-3s, were at lower risk of developing AMD.
  4. Take the right kind of vitamins. Vitamins can delay progression of advanced AMD and help people keep their vision longer if they have intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye. But make sure it’s the right combination of vitamins. A recent study found that some of the top-selling products do not contain identical ingredient dosages to eye vitamin formulas proven effective in clinical trials.
  5. Exercise regularly. Exercising three times a week can reduce the risk of developing wet AMD by 70 percent. Studies also show that physical activity may lower the odds of both early and late-stages of AMD.
  6. Monitor your sight with an Amsler Grid. This simple, daily routine takes less than one minute and can help people with AMD save more of their vision. Using this grid is essential to finding any vision changes that are not obvious, so you can report them to your ophthalmologist.
  7. Know your family’s eye health history. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent greater chance of developing the condition. Before your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. You may need more frequent eye exams based on your family history.

“While new treatments and technologies are helping patients keep more of their vision than ever before, early detection remains your best defense against AMD,” said Rahul N. Khurana, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Get a baseline, comprehensive exam at age 40. After age 65, get an exam every one to two years, even if you have no symptoms. Your good vision depends on it.”