It’s National Eye Health Week from September 21-27, and this year it’s more important than ever to know what steps you can take to ensure you look after your eye health.
Spending more time in front of a screen during lockdown, or wondering what the rules are when it comes to eye tests during the COVID-19 outbreak?
We sought the advice of Henry Leonard, Head of Clinical and Regulatory at the Association Of Optometrists:
“During lockdown, many of us have been reflecting on what’s really important in life. But how many of us have been thinking about our eyesight?
“Vision is the sense people fear losing the most. But it’s also something many of us take for granted until we have a problem.
“Having regular sight tests is one of the best things you can do to look after your eyes. Optometrists can usually pick up any problems early, before they have a chance to cause permanent damage.
“In addition to checking the health of your eyes, a sight test might also detect signs of underlying general health problems, such as raised blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
Eyestrain and headaches
“Many of us have been using screens more during lockdown. Whilst there’s no evidence this causes any permanent harm to the eyes, it can certainly cause temporary problems like eyestrain and headaches.
“A sight test will check whether you might benefit from glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision, but what else can people do to make things more comfortable when using screens?
“Firstly, it’s important to take regular breaks from the screen. Relax your eyes by looking at something in the distance.
“Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and don’t forget to blink. It may sound strange, but studies have found that people tend to blink less often when using a screen. This can make your eyes feel dry and tired.
“Finally, don’t forget to wear glasses or contact lenses if your optometrist has recommended them for screen work.
“During the COVID-19 outbreak, many spectacle wearers have reported difficulty with their lenses misting up when wearing a face covering. But did you know face masks can also make your eyes feel dry?
“Researchers at the Centre For Ocular Research and Education (CORE) have identified an increase in reports of dry eye discomfort, described as ‘mask-associated dry eye’ (MADE). The good news is that a well-fitting mask, lubricating eye drops and limiting your time in dry environments such as air-conditioned rooms can all help reduce symptoms of MADE.
“Aside from regular sight tests, there are some simple steps you can take to look after your eyes. Top tips include not smoking, having a good diet, and using good quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from too much UV light in the sun.
“Finally, you might be wondering whether opticians are even open with the COVID-19 situation.
“During the lockdown, most optometry practices remained open for essential and urgent care. The majority have now reopened for more routine eyecare, but due to the backlog, many practices are having to prioritise those people who are in the most urgent need.
“If you or any members of your household are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have been advised by NHS to isolate, you shouldn’t book an appointment. But your optometrist can redirect you to an alternative provider if your symptoms require urgent investigation.”
For more on National Eye Health Week, click here.
For more health advice from “The People’s Friend”, click here.