Blurred vision, nearsightedness? How the lockdown took a toll on your eyes

Eye health Eye health (Image: Shutterstock)

Increased screen time and reduced outdoor activities in the lockdown have been bearing down on our eyes. Doctors are worried that these habits could lead to another epidemic — that of myopia or nearsightedness.

Some weeks ago, the husband and I were enjoying the last light of the day with a cup of tea in hand by the window. All of a sudden, I tugged at his arm, pointed to a shop some 20 meters away on the other side of the road and said: “Can you read what’s written on the board?”

Startled at first, he looked in the direction and replied: “Yeah. It reads ‘Sabka Dentist’. Why? Can’t you?.”

“I could, some time ago. Now I can’t. OMG!”

I reluctantly acknowledged to myself what continuous screen time — close to 10 hours of it — 3 OTT subscriptions and digital books have been doing to my eyesight. While I had no problem seeing or reading things closer to me, things at a distance were a blur.

My husband, who has inherited the dreaded HLA-B27 that causes uveitis (a type of eye inflammation) shrugged, muttering softly what our combined genes would mean for our progeny’s eyesight.

Frightened at this new development, I decided to finally heed what my bone dry eyes have been trying to tell me all these days. With some discipline, reduced screen time and the 20-20-20 rule (focusing on something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds after 20 minutes), my eyesight eventually got less blurry. **Whew**

And yes, I can finally read what’s written on the board on the stop across the road.

How you’ve been treating your eyes

Increased screen time and reduced outdoor activities in the lockdown have been bearing down on our eyes. Doctors are worried that these habits could lead to another epidemic — that of myopia or nearsightedness.‘I travelled 1,500 km with my baby to join India’s fight against COVID-19’

The urban crowd, who spend more time staring into digital screens, have been reported increased cases of lifestyle-induced myopia.  If left unchecked, it could cause vision impairment. ‘Do NOT wear N95’: CDC just schooled us on how to wear a mask.

On the brighter side, this problem can be corrected if you make some lifestyle changes and reduce screentime.

What is Myopia or nearsightedness?

Myopia, short-sightedness or nearsightedness is a common condition where the objects that are near may seem clear. But those at a distance may appear blurry.

“One may encounter this problem when the shape of one’s eye causes light rays to bend incorrectly and focusing on images in the front of the retina and not on your retina,” Dr Hemant Todkar, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Pune.

Myopia is commonly caused when the eyes can’t focus light due to abnormal elongation of the eyeball.

The World Health Organization groups myopia among the top causes of blindness. Is your gut bacteria making you gain weight?

What causes myopia or nearsightedness?

Some causes of nearsightedness or short-sightedness include:

  • screen time
  • industrialisation
  • family history
  • greater time spent online
  • lack of exercise

“Even children can suffer from this condition owing to online school and classes during the lockdown and not doing any extra-curricular activities.  Around 4 out of 100 get myopia due to anatomical reasons while 12 out of 100 people have lifestyle-induced myopia,” says Dr Todkar.

Symptoms of short-sightedness include:

  • blurry vision
  • headaches
  • difficulty seeing things at night
  • constant rubbing or blinking of eyes

“Myopia can affect one’s quality of life and can invite complications such as retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma, if not tackled at the right time,” says the doctor.

How to keep your eyes healthy

Although binge-watching is the only endurance sport we are indulging in during the lockdown, some lifestyle changes can help. You can begin by keeping your smartphone aside, and looking at the sky!

“Embracing a good lifestyle can help correct myopia. Adults and children should regulate screen time. Exercise outdoors and do activities such as walking, running, or even jogging. Looking towards the sky can be beneficial as distance vision will cause relaxation of the accommodation and reduce myopia. Go for regular eye check-ups and choose proper eyeglasses or lenses. Also, refractive surgery will be advised depending on how serious the problem is,” concluded Dr Todkar