Coronavirus lockdown has us isolating in our homes. Hours we usually spend in cars, shopping malls or with friends are now spent indoors- in front of our television, computers and smartphones.
Children, too, are spending far more time in front of screens now. Classrooms have been replaced by online learning. Time on the playground is now spent playing video games and watching videos.
The earlier limited screen time we allowed ourselves and our children is soon turning into binge-watching. Checking out a quick YouTube video with your morning coffee can lead to another video and then another. Before you know it, the sun is setting and you’ve hardly left the couch. With no motivation to get up early in the morning, the single episode you watched earlier extends into watching the entire season.
While the access to digital technology helps to keep you distracted from the gloom of the lockdown, it does take its toll on your vision.
When I teach a class, I ask my fresher optometry students, what is Vision? The answer I almost always get is, “Vision is the ability to see”. They spend the next four years understanding what Vision is.
So let us briefly understand what exactly is healthy vision.
Vision is not just seeing but the process of deriving meaning from what we see.
Vision starts with moving your eyes towards the object of interest such that both the eyes are aligned with each other in the direction of the object, focusing your eyes to make that object clear, processing and interpreting the image captured by the eyes at the brain level so as to understand what you are seeing. When we read or watch objects in motion or switch our focus from one object to another, the eyes readjust themselves to realign with the new target. These complex actions are controlled by not just the optics of the eyes but by its neural stimulation and the muscles which help focus and move the eyes in different directions.
This lockdown gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my fellow optometrists and ophthalmologist friends and compare our clinical experiences over the past few years.
A study done by my colleague in 2017 in rural and urban Tamil Nadu showed almost 31% of school going students between the ages of 7 to 17yrs have issues focusing. These numbers are similar or greater across the globe as observed in various studies.
In adults, every second computer user I see has some form of binocular vision dysfunction. Data shows almost 56.2% of ocular symptoms like headache, fatigue, burning sensation, intermittent blurring, double vision, loss of focus, inability to concentrate, dry eyes, etc. are related to binocular vision dysfunction. And I fear, this lockdown is going to further push these numbers upward.
While conventionally, checking visual acuity (reading from the black and white alphabet chart) was considered sufficient, the digital era will require further testing to be done, not just of visual acuity but also of visual efficiency.
We at Paranjpe Vision Care are using our Lockdown time proficiently to upgrade our understanding of the visual demands of the future and to combat the lockdown related visual dysfunction. We are in the process of inculcating advanced tests to our regular eye checkup list.
This will help us in the early detection of binocular vision anomalies, enabling us to nip them in the bud.
I shall soon post the second part covering a list of what all you can do to protect your vision from the ill effects of digital exposure during the current lockdown.
Mithali Paranjape +919890147825
| Paranjpe Vision Care, F.C. Road | Paranjpe Eye Care. Karvenagar | +919823351184 |