Many times, while we prioritise taking care of our health, we end up neglecting our eyes. We might end up going for a regular body check-up, but somehow, regular eye check-up is rarely on the list. Over the years, lifestyle changes have also added to eyesight troubles. Increased screen time, air pollution and other toxins have added to eyesight problems. Every year, World Sight Day (October 13) is celebrated to spread awareness about retinal problems.
According to reports, in India over 10 million people suffer from retinal diseases. Cases of cataracts are also on the rise. Hence, adding regular check-ups to your healthcare list has become a necessity.
Dr Pradya Nikam, Senior Ophthalmologist, Apollo Clinic, Aundh, Pune, reveals, “Situation regarding eye care in India has been improved in the urban area. But in the countryside, it is the same as before, where I have seen many patients with bilateral mature cataracts, advanced glaucoma and congenital cataract without any treatment.” Taking her point to a different level, it is also a reality that India is the blind capital of the world. The national blindness and vision impairment survey states cataracts as being the most common cause over 50 years. The second cause is diabetic retinopathy, which leads to ocular morbidity and blindness, if not treated in time. India is the diabetic capital of the world.
Dr Tanvi Ruchit Shah, Consultant Ophthalmology, Masina Hospital, Mumbai, reveals, “The most common causes of blindness in India are cataracts, which account for 66.2% of cases. Other causes are corneal opacities, cataract surgery-related complications, posterior segment diseases, etc. Avoidable causes of blindness account for 92% and avoidable causes of vision impairment account for 97%.”
Experts suggest getting eyes checked regularly can help in avoiding retinal problems. Timely intervention, if the problem is detected early on, can help save one’s eyesight. “Most people ignore minor alarming symptoms related to eyes. For example, symptoms of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, even a refractive error are ignored,” reveals Dr Nikam.
If not treated and on time, these conditions progress and can lead to irreversible damage. Sleeping with contact lenses and low hygiene level regarding it is high. Many use old eye drops or contact lenses. Overuse of eye makeup is a culprit.
Dr Girija Suresh, Senior Ophthalmic Consultant, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai, wants regular eye check-ups to be a part of every person’s overall wellness. “That is why there should be regular school and preschool eye screening for children, pre-employment eye check-ups for adults and so on.”
Dr Nikam suggests that high-risk people (with a family history of glaucoma, hypertension, diabetes, thyroid diseases, etc.) go for an annual eye check-up. “The new challenge of computer vision syndrome has risen due to digitalisation post-Covid. Those with screen time of more than five to six hours should follow the rule of 20-20-20. For every 20-minute screen time, look at 20 M objects for 20 seconds.”
Dr Shah suggests one should wear protective eyewear, especially while travelling. She also asks people to keep a 25-30 centimetres distance between the eye and the screen. “The screen should be bright enough. Eat healthily. Along with cataract screening, you should pay attention to other eye diseases.”
However, the reality is we have around 25,000 ophthalmologists and 45,000 optometrists. We require 1.25 lakhs eye specialists. “We need more affordable eye hospitals with better infrastructure, advanced technological support, and facilities providing proper medical and technical staff,” Dr Girija concludes.