As an eye care specialist, I’d like to share my COVID-19 experiences to date.
My initial reaction was one of great concern since I assumed that the eyes might be a major point of virus entry. This would mean warning all my patients to not touch or rub eyes and for all contact lens wearers to take a break. Fortunately it became apparent very early on that the eye was not a point of entry. This was great news and I hope researchers will find out why and that it helps with discovery of a successful treatment. It’s worth noting that I have always recommended that my contact lens wearers stop wear whenever they have an respiratory infection/disease. THIS SHOULD STILL HOLD IN CASE OF COVID-19.
It’s also interesting to note that viral (usually an adenovirus)conjunctivitis is often extremely contagious. Interestingly the advice has always been to self isolate as much as possible. Transmission and risk of complications are spookily similar to COVID-19.
At maximeyes we have a special test kit to identify contagious viral conjunctivitis. Fortunately I haven’t had need to use this kit since I purchased it two years ago.
The next issue of note is hand cleaning. Again this is an issue constantly discussed with all my contact lens wearers. I have always emphasised hand cleaning BUT ALSO THE USE OF NAIL BRUSHES to clean finger tips and under nails because this is the area in potential close contact with their contact lenses and eyes. Our main concern is avoiding destructive bacteria but viruses are always a possibility. The general increased emphasis on the importance of hand cleaning was an unexpected benefit from a terrible situation. (Just like the environmental benefit.)
The next alarming development was the surprising lack of discussion about the impact on the visual system of increased near activities mostly screen time as adults and kids have been confined to home. This home based work, education and entertainment was in my opinion a great move for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic but it presented a potential increase in another pandemic, the tremendous increase in the eye disease know as myopia or short sightedness. This pandemic has been ongoing and increasing for more than 20 years and has reached alarming penetration in most urban areas but especially in cities throughout Southeast Asia with over 90% of kids being affected in many centres. This pandemic is a time bomb for the world’s eyes since it involves an abnormal lengthening of the eye and this in turn leads to an increase in sight threatening conditions later in life.
Myopia onset is suppressed in kids who get more outdoors exposure, so kids should be encouraged to spend time on balconies and back yards especially since team sports are cancelled.
For entertainment and visual training the use of virtual reality systems are an excellent alternative to normal screen activities since the near focusing can be reduced. Virtual reality training systems as well as entertaining kids can also treat binocular issues that predispose eyes to grow and become more myopic, in addition to other visual problems which reduce reading skills and sporting skills.