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September 20, 2023
Insights from optometrists: the pandemic has given us dry eye syndrome and more children
Increasing life expectancy and working age, and more time spent in front of screens, are leading to an increase in visual impairment, with pandemic factors contributing to this increase. These include dry eye syndrome, eye fatigue and myopia,
manifesting itself at an increasingly younger age. According to the Lithuanian Statistics Department, before the pandemic, one in three people in Lithuania had vision problems and had to wear glasses, contact lenses or undergo surgery to correct their vision. At the annual conference of the Lithuanian Optometric Association "Optometric Practice Topics 2022", held in early April, it was revealed that the pandemic has also affected the increase in the number of cases of dry eye syndrome.
"Even before the pandemic, we were already spending a lot of time in front of screens, and since the pandemic, when even more of our lives have moved into the distance, that time has grown even longer. This prolonged screen time tends to make the eyes blink less often, which means that they get drier, which is why complaints of dry eyes have started to increase dramatically," says Vaida Kačergienė, President of the Lithuanian Association of Optometrists. She reveals that the constant wearing of masks has also contributed to this syndrome: the air that is blown out usually goes
over the top of the mask, thereby drying and irritating the eye lining.
The conference also highlighted another topical issue - the prevalence of myopia in children. According to V. Kačergienė, the problem is growing dramatically around the world, and the ophthalmology, optometry and optics industries are focused on finding ways to stop the development of myopia in children. This is again due to the time spent in front of screens, looking at close objects for long periods of time. "The main way to prevent the progression of myopia is to be outdoors as much as possible and to look into the distance as often as possible, which is one of the most important preventive measures," says the specialist.
The conference noted that as the number of visual impairments increases, so does the popularity of laser surgery: according to one of the largest clinics in Lithuania performing laser vision correction, the popularity of such surgeries has doubled in the last five years. Laser vision correction is particularly popular among active, young people who are uncomfortable wearing glasses.
V. Kačergienė points out that the profession of optometrist is still not very well known to Lithuanians: who are ophthalmologists is generally known, but the nature of an optometrist's work is not always clear. "We are self-employed primary eye and vision care specialists who effectively complement the team of ophthalmologists, as is accepted in most advanced countries around the world and in Europe," explains V. Kačergienė.
The Lithuanian Optometric Association pays great attention not only to those with visual impairment, but also to those who have lost their sight - it cooperates with the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted (LASS) and the Lithuanian Blind Library. "Our aim is not only to help people who need sight correction, but also to help those who have very limited options for sight correction and very little residual sight. If we are no longer able to help, we try not to leave these people without help - we inform them about the possibility of joining the LASS community and the possibility of satisfying their need to read by using the ELVIS audio books of the Lithuanian Library for the Blind", - says V. Kačergienė.
Tel. No. 8 686 84452
September 20, 2023
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