The year 2020 was not good for our eyes, as in many health-related issues. In the first three months of the pandemic, eye examinations decreased by 80 percent and cataract surgeries decreased by 95 percent. Our eye health has been adversely affected as a result of unexpected examinations, surgeries and intense screen use. However, the World Health Organization declared 2020 as the 'World Sight Year'. The Turkish Ophthalmology Association (TOD) evaluated 2020 in terms of our eyesight.
Older patients due to the pandemic could not go to the controls because they had more risks, and those with new complaints avoided applying to the hospital or seeing a doctor because of the risk of infection. With the effect of restrictions, hospital and doctor admissions decreased, interventions and treatments, except for life and emergency situations, had to be postponed.
Representing Turkish ophthalmologists from the Turkish Ophthalmology Association, Central Executive Board Member Prof. Dr. Hüban Atilla summarized the situation regarding our eye health in 2020 like this.
Examinations and surgeries almost stopped
Emphasizing that we have left behind a difficult year in terms of eye health, Prof. According to the data shared by Atilla; Compared to 2019, there was an 2020 percent decrease in examinations in the field of ophthalmology in the first three months of the pandemic (March-April-May) in 80. Thus, unfortunately, ophthalmology became the specialty with the greatest decrease in all specialties.
“Routine eye examination came to a standstill, especially during times of curfew. However, as of June, applications started to increase gradually, ”said Prof. Dr. Hüban Atilla stated that there was a 95 percent reduction in cataract surgery, which is the most performed surgery among eye diseases. TOD Central Executive Committee Member said, "Approximately 4-5 months after returning to normal conditions, it can be expected that the number of cataract operations will increase to 90 percent of the period before the pandemic, but it will probably only be possible in 2-3 years to perform operations that are delayed during the pandemic."
The year 2020 was declared 'World Sight Year'
In fact, 2020 was declared as the year of "Vision 2020" by the World Health Organization (WHO), with a program focused specifically on childhood preventable eye diseases. However, this project could not be implemented both in our country and in the world, priority and attention had to be directed to Covid-19 disease.
Prof. Atilla said, “While the risk of permanent vision loss could be reduced by 50 percent with screening and early diagnosis, especially in childhood, unfortunately, screening programs and follow-up were greatly interrupted during this period. Unfortunately, the effect of this will emerge more in the next few years, ”he said.
Emergency applications came to the fore, the reasons for application changed
Although emergency patient admissions also decreased by approximately 40-50 percent, emergency patient admissions for eye health still accounted for half of all patient admissions. However, there were differences in the reasons for emergency admissions. Atilla said, “While trauma, conjunctivitis and blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) were the most common causes of emergency admission before, trauma, keratitis (corneal inflammation) and uveitis came to the fore during the pandemic period. Mask, distance and hygiene measures contributed to the reduction of conjunctivitis, which is often contagious. The increase in the application of keratitis can be evaluated in relation to the disinfectants and masks used. On the subject of trauma, eye trauma associated with home accidents came to the fore ”.
Digital eyestrain and insomnia
Prof. Atilla stated that another eye problem that arises is 'digital eye strain'. Especially among young people and students, the use of digital devices increased by an average of 5 hours per day, reaching 8-8.5 hours. This period has also increased in adults. As the use of digital devices increased, approximately 65-70 percent of complaints about insomnia were added, and eye-related complaints increased.
Which complaints are seen?
Complaints such as headache, pain around the eyes, feeling of heaviness in the eyelids, redness in the eyes, burning, dryness and stinging sensation, light discomfort, itching, blinking, difficulty in focusing, double vision stand out as complaints related to digital eye fatigue. According to Dr. Hüban Atilla, “This situation affects children and young people who are in front of the screen for a long time due to distance education. Although there are doubts that long-term close work in children triggers myopia, it has not been proven on an evidence-based basis. However, it may cause an early feeling of latent hyperopia or near vision difficulty (presbyopia). "
Teachers would notice their student's eye flaws
Prof. Dr. Hüban Atilla emphasized that closed schools reduce the detection by teachers of refractive errors such as myopia, which occur especially in primary school age. Atilla continued his words as follows: “The measures to stay at home also caused an increase in accidents at home. However, holding tablets and phones too close can also trigger drinks. During this period, we encounter more sudden slipping complaints especially in school-age children. "
Patients over 65 have disrupted their routine follow-up
“In this period, elderly patients with age-related macular degeneration, also known as yellow spot disease, did not follow up and their vision problems increased,” said Prof. "Similarly, in diabetic patients, because of the side effects of the drugs used, the effect of the coronavirus on the pancreas and prolonged inactivity, blood sugar has increased, diabetes control is impaired, and diabetes-related bleeding and other pathologies in the eyes have also occurred more," he said.