Tips to keep your eyes healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic

Tips to keep your eyes healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Since 2020, COVID-19 has been on the back of people’s minds as governments worldwide imposed nationwide restrictions that severely impacted livelihoods and even mental health. Work-from-home arrangements, as well as home-based learning (HBL) for children, can contribute to increased risks of eye strain and eye problems. Living with COVID-19 is taking a toll on your eye health and that of your kids, whether you realise it or not. Here are some tips to keep your eyes healthy in a COVID-19 era. 

keep eyes healthy during covid

#1: Get some outdoor exposure to sunlight as much as you can 

Getting some outdoor sun exposure would expose you to a healthy dose of vitamin D to enhance your eye health. The American Optometric Association posits that if you lack vitamin D, you would be at greater risk of developing diabetes that could give rise to diabetic retinopathy, a sight-threatening condition. Thus if you are working or studying from home due to COVID-19 restrictions, take a couple of breaks during the day for some outdoor time. 

For example, you could take a stroll in the park, do some exercises or even run some errands outdoors. If you are living in cold wintry areas or are unable to get ample vitamin D exposure from sunlight, get your vitamin D from cold-water fish (sardines, pink salmon and canned tuna) and supplements instead. 

keep eyes healthy during covid

#2: But avoid an over-exposure to sunlight 

Bear in mind that while some sunlight exposure could provide you with the vitamin D you need for your eyes to be healthy, an over-exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation could raise your vulnerability to eye conditions like cataracts (clouding of your eye’s natural lens) as well as photokeratitis (an “eye sunburn” that results in provisional redness and pain. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses with total UVA/UVB protection when you have to be under the sun for prolonged periods of time. 

#3: Remain physically active

While this tip might seem like a no-brainer, it can be very tempting to stay cooped up in your house or room all day especially when you are working or studying from home. Constant exercise can reduce your susceptibility to severe eye disease like glaucoma (an eye condition when your optic nerve is damaged). Even if you already have an existing eye condition, constant exercise can keep the condition under control. 

#4: Regular screen breaks are essential 

If you are constantly staring at digital screens (think phones, computers and tablets), you might suffer from digital eye strain, fatigue and dry eyes. Also, you might be at a higher risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness) or if you have myopia, it may worsen as a result of looking too much at screens. 

While it might be impossible to completely avoid digital screens, taking regular screen breaks is essential to protect and maintain your eye health. For instance, the simple 20-20-20 rule can be a useful guide for your digital screen habits whereby you look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more after looking at the screen for 20 minutes. 

#5: Be aware of possible side effects of COVID vaccines on your eyes 

New vaccines purportedly to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 have been developed at an unprecedented speed, without undergoing usual due diligence and vaccine trials of at least 5years. This is unfortunate, in lieu of the urgency that this pandemic has had on pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the vaccines. This means that the current COVID vaccines (at the time of writing) are still in experimental phases, and no one knows the long-term side effects on health. 

Ever since widespread vaccination campaigns have kickstarted in various nations, there have been numerous reports of ocular adverse effects after COVID-19 vaccinations. Some of the ocular adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccinations include facial nerve palsy, abducens nerve palsy, acute macular neuroretinopathy, central serous retinopathy, thrombosis, uveitis, multiple evanescent white dot syndrome, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease reactivation, and new-onset Graves’ Disease. 

While some studies have stated that correlation is not necessarily causality, the fact of the matter remains that correlation does not mean non-causality. Put simply, even if some studies state that adverse reactions after the COVID inoculations are not necessarily as a result of the COVID jab, they have been unable to substantially prove their claims. The best way is to exercise prudence and personal responsibility when deciding to take the shots or not.  While protection from or immunity against COVID by vaccinating is crucial for everyone, it is important to educate yourself and your loved ones about the possible side effects of these vaccines before deciding to take the primary or booster shot.

keep eyes healthy during covid

#6: Schedule regular eye examinations 

Even if you do not think you need one, a comprehensive eye examination is important for you to monitor your eye health and to detect any eye conditions early on. For example, early detection of glaucoma can mean the difference between having healthy eyes and permanent vision loss. Sign up with planoEyecheck for your next eye appointment. 

References 

[1] Charters, L., 2022. COVID-19 vaccine’s impact on eyes investigated by researchers. [online] Modern Retina. Available at: <https://www.modernretina.com/view/covid-19-vaccine-s-impact-on-eyes-investigated-by-researchers> [Accessed 21 January 2022].

[2] Ocular Adverse Events After COVID-19 Vaccination. In-text: (Ng et al., 2022)

[3] Vaers.hhs.gov. 2022. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). [online] Available at: <https://vaers.hhs.gov/> [Accessed 21 January 2022].

[4] All About Vision. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.allaboutvision.com/coronavirus/10-ways-to-keep-eyes-healthy-during-pandemic/> [Accessed 21 January 2022].

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