Act quickly to prevent eye problems

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic has seen schools across the country switch to online classes from home, while working adults have been urged to work from home.

During this period, there was an inevitable increase in the use of digital technology as people and organizations adapted to new standards in work and life.

But too much time spent in front of a screen can affect eyesight.

Besides gadgets, there are other factors that can trigger eye health issues in people of all ages.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors are the leading causes of visual impairment, the other causes being age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma.

Dr Azlindarita @ Aisyah Mohd Abdullah, general ophthalmologist and pediatrician at MSU Shah Alam Medical Center, said that genetic and non-genetic factors also contribute to visual impairment in babies and children.

“Most cases of genetic origin can be detected at birth or within six months.

“Apart from that, an absent red reflex where one pupil is white is a sign of cataracts in infants. For babies with glaucoma, the cornea should be transparent instead of cloudy, ”she said on World Sight Day, which falls on the second Thursday in October.

Dr Azlindarita said that non-genetic factors generally affect premature babies under 32 weeks, or those weighing less than 1.5 kg, with a high risk of developing myopia in babies with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP ).

ROP is an eye disease that occurs in a small percentage of premature babies where abnormal blood vessels develop on the retina.

“The infant will be screened before being allowed to return home, especially those who have been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth.

“Even if ROP is not confirmed, they will still be required to do annual screening to make sure there is no problem,” she said, adding that normally this group will be screened. until the age of six or seven.

A 2005 study showed that the rate of visual impairment in seven-year-olds was 9.8%, while the rate was 34.4% for 15-year-olds.

Malaysian Association of Optometrists (AMO) President Ahmad Fadhullah Ahmad Fuzai said the use of gadgets in young children can affect their mental and emotional development and put them at risk for visual impairment.

Several local studies have found that exposure to gadget screens – including phones and televisions – before the age of two can have a negative effect.

Quoting the American Optometric Association, he said that excessive exposure to blue light can damage the retina.

“Exposure to blue light from computer screens and digital devices can decrease contrast, leading to digital eye strain, weight gain, the onset or progression of macular degeneration and affect concentration.

“For children two to three years old, passive and prolonged exposure to a television screen, and without parental interaction, is not encouraged. From birth to infancy, children use their five senses to explore their world, which is crucial for brain development, ”he said.

Visual impairment is also prevalent among those who have poor eating habits and are picky eaters.

People deficient in nutrients include people addicted to alcohol, vegetarians, patients who have had gastrointestinal surgery, or those who suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa.

Ahmad Fadhullah said that an unbalanced diet can lead to B12, vitamin D and selenium deficiency, high zinc levels, as well as reduced bone density and optic neuropathy, or damage to the optic nerve. characterized by loss of vision.

“Not only do an individual face problems with their eyesight from their diet, but not having the right nutrition can also affect their eyesight.

“Nutritional optic neuropathy is a dysfunction of the optic nerve resulting from a lack of certain nutrients essential for the normal functioning of nerve fibers.”

He also noted that the consumption of drugs readily available online but not approved by the Department of Health (MOH) can have side effects on an individual’s eyesight.

“This is because unregistered drugs normally have a high steroid content for temporary relief.

“When these drugs are taken without a doctor’s prescription, it can lead to acute glaucoma and permanent blindness.

“Lubricating eye drops widely used to relieve eye problems are also harmful to the consumer. Therefore, the authorities should control the sale of drugs that are not approved by the Ministry of Health, ”he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health President Dr Shawaludin Husin said the fatigue or eye strain experienced by workers can affect body posture or ergonomics as the eyes are too focused on the screen for a long time.

“It could lead to other health issues when the body seems to be ‘locked in’ because they have to focus on performing a task as people overlook the importance of having good posture. These range from back pain and waist pain, to headaches, etc., as more time is spent staring at the screen.

“Some people have trouble sleeping due to the blue light on the screen affecting the body’s hormonal balance. Too much exposure to blue light at night can cause melatonin levels to drop, ”he said. – Bernama


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