Five essential eye care tips to protect your vision this summer

The skin and the eyes are very sensitive to atmospheric temperature. The high humidity in the hot season interferes with our body's natural cooling mechanisms and leaves us dehydrated.
Five essential eye care tips to protect your vision this summer
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Chennai: The soaring temperatures recorded across India this summer are going to be harsher than usual. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the increase in temperature last month in many parts of the country was about 4-6 degrees Celsius above normal - making it the hottest in India’s history in the last 122 years.

The skin and the eyes are very sensitive to atmospheric temperature. The high humidity in the hot season interferes with our body's natural cooling mechanisms and leaves us dehydrated. Our eyes become dry more easily - as their tear films evaporate more quickly. When this happens, we get a burning sensation as without enough tears or tears of poor quality our eyes cannot moisturize themselves.

Many develop eye allergies in summer as the rising temperature, when combined with pollution and humidity, lead to itching, redness, inflammation, and irritation. Conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the tissue that covers the surface of the eyeball, is another common complaint. The complications such as pink eye (‘Madras eye’), and stye, a bacterial infection, characterised by swelling in one or both eyelids, pain and redness in the eyes as well, too usually increase during the summer.

However, with proper care and preventive measures, we can protect ourselves from eye diseases and ensure that the quality of our day-to-day life is not severely affected. Following are the five essential eye care guidelines you can follow:

The 20:20:20 Rule

People take refuge in air conditioners (ACs) during summer. And work today involves long hours of staring at computer monitors. This can be a deadly combination that affects eye health. First, let us consider the effect of air conditioning on the eyes. When the AC is on, the temperature of course comes down. The humidity comes down. But it also reduces the ability of the eye’s glands (Meibomian gland) to secrete an oil known as meibum that is important to slow down the evaporation of the tears. Hence, in an air-conditioned environment, our eyes become dry too quickly.

What compounds the problem is the extended screen time. It interferes with the blinking mechanism of our eyes. Normally, we blink about 15-20 times a minute. When we blink every time, we help the tears spread over our eyes evenly, and this keeps the eyes from getting dry. But we blink only about 7-10 times on average when we work with computers. As a result, our eyes dry and we develop irritation, a condition known as digital strain. Hence, working with computers in an air-conditioned environment is a recipe for dry eyes.

Studies show that the average screen time post Covid has increased from about 3 hours to 8 hours a day across the working population. Children too spend an equal - if not more, amount of time in front of screens. Consequently, the incidence rate of dry eyes has risen to 30-40% in recent years compared to less than 15% even a decade ago.

It is understandable that this scenario cannot be completely avoided by everyone. But to eliminate or reduce the risk, the AC temperature can be kept at a moderate level of about 28 degrees Celsius. To mitigate the risk of digital strain, it is important to follow the 20-20-20 rule, which recommends that after every 20 minutes of screen time, we should take a 20 second break and look at something that is 20 feet away from us. You can use eyeglasses with anti-reflective coating - they allow more light to pass through to your eyes, and thus relax them.

What you eat that your eyes become

The food we take should have lots of fluids so that they replace the speedy loss of fluids in the body. It is advisable to take 5 litres of water every day and have tender coconut and juices of lemon / orange, spinach, mint, carrot, apple, and tomato. But it is better to avoid bottled soft drinks. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the usually recommended items include mango, broccoli, and cabbage. These foods aid in secretion of vitamins and antioxidants that can increase fluids and destroy free radicals that cause inflammation. It is important to avoid or reduce the intake of oily foods.

Personal hygiene matters more

Whenever necessary we should wash our faces and rinse eyes - with tap water at normal temperature. This we should do especially when we come to the office or home from outside, after travelling under hot sun, and in polluted atmosphere.

Many eye infections, including the ‘pink eye’, are spread through contact. Hence, it is important to avoid using towels, kerchiefs, and other personal items that might have been used by others. Even when there is itching, one must avoid rubbing of the eyes - for this would aggravate the infection.

Wearable protection

Avoid directly seeing the sun. It can affect the macula, a part of the retina (the light sensitive layer) at the back of the eye. You can wear a hat and sunglasses while you step out. It is essential to choose sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection. They should not have any hidden power. If possible, get an eye expert’s recommendation for sunglasses. When you are in a swimming pool, wear goggles to protect your eyes from the chemical content in the water. It is okay to use ‘tears’ sold in pharmacies for dry eyes but only after consulting ophthalmologists and getting their prescriptions.

Lifestyle modifications

Sun stroke usually happens between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Hence, one should avoid travelling during these hours as much as possible. In case you feel dizzy while you are outside, find a shadow and wait for about 30 minutes or more, if you still do not feel okay. Have water and then resume your travel.

All said and done, we need sun rays for a healthy body and mind. Hence, make it a routine to spend time outdoors, playing or walking in an open environment under the sun, but after 3 p.m or 4 p.m. during the summer. People who wear contact lenses must avoid direct exposure to the sun as much as possible.

Dry eyes, pink eye, conjunctivitis, and stye may appear like temporal and seasonal eye conditions but they can lead to long lasting effects. They could affect cornea and retina in the longer run. Hence, pay attention to these recommendations and emerge a ‘visionary’ with an uncompromising eye health, this summer.

By: Srinivasan G Rao

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