How COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people’s eyesight

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Doctors say the COVID-19 pandemic is having an effect on people’s eyesight. Everything from increased screen time to putting off eye exams is coming into play. There are a lot of different vision issues cropping up.

The pandemic caused people to cancel in-person eye exams, which could detect major vision problems.

“It’s lead to delays in patients getting evaluated and getting the care they need,” said Dr. Timothy Murray of the American Society of Retina Specialists.

As vision slowly starts to go bad, the brain tries to compensate for it. Many don’t realize their sight is failing at first.

Steve Kollin has a history of macular degeneration that runs in his family. He said if he hadn’t gotten an exam, he never would have noticed his vision had begun to deteriorate.

“When he (the doctor) told me I had signs of macular degeneration and needed injections, I didn’t even notice any change whatsoever in my vision.”

Eye conditions like detached retinas or macular degeneration, which causes loss of sight in the center of your field of vision, used to be permanently blinding conditions. New procedures have changed that.

“If we can make your diagnosis early, we can treat you incredibly well and you’ll no longer have to go blind,” Murray said.

Kollin can attest to that saying his treatments worked right away.

“I didn’t see any change,” he said. “I just knew he was giving me injections and telling me it was under control.”

Putting off exams isn’t the only problem the pandemic caused. It also created lots of vision issues for longtime device users. People are suffering from fatigue and ocular dryness because of too much screentime from working at home or taking online classes all day long.

“We talk about the 20/20 rule,” Murray said. “Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

He said over-the-counter artificial tears can also help. He also said to remember to continue to blink when using a device.

“When you’re on a screen, you blink less and your eyes tend to be drier,” Murray said.

As the population ages, retina specialists said the number of vision-related problems caused by diabetes and macular degeneration will explode affecting 40 million people.

Doctors said the blindness that accompanies those conditions can be prevented with early detection.

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