Do not take your eye problems lightly


Doctors in this segment shed light on their specialties to give you awareness about your common problems and misconceptions. A Cardiologist will be here next month to enlighten the readers about his forte. Write to us if you want your queries answered.

An ophthalmologist at Shifa International Hospital Islamabad, in an interview with Haleema Azmat

SN: What are the common eye problems in Pakistan?
The most common are vision problems which can occur at any age and there are different reasons for it like, weak eyesight and cataract. Besides this retinal problems are also common which are mostly caused by diabetes. But they can occur due to family history as well. Squint and glaucoma (kala motia) are also seen commonly in the country. As far as the prevalence is concerned, it is the same world over. Nevertheless, there are some diseases like kala motia that are more common in Pakistan because of lack of screening.

SN: Do you think people neglect their eye health?
Yes people do and I think the reason behind it is financial. People who can afford are more aware. They bring their children for treatment at an early age. Moreover, children get picked for eye problems during screening sessions in schools as they generally do not complain about their problem. Screening therefore becomes really important. On the other hand, poor people bring their children at the last stage of disease. Treatment becomes unaffordable at that time.

SN: What problems are being detected among school-going children?
Weak eyesight is commonly being detected in children. Lazy eye is another problem in which a child can see clearly from one eye but the second remains lazy. Apparently it looks healthy. Such children come to know about their problem in teenage or parents become aware of the problem when their child’s eye starts to squint. Intervention can be made to prevent such eye from weakening further only if it gets detected early.

SN: How serious can an eye problem get?
Some eye problems can be symptoms of brain disease and can be dangerous. In such case we refer patients to the neurologist. Besides this, some immune system problems also appear in the eye. For instance inflammation of the eye can be a sign of any other physical illness. Sarcoidosis is a chronic disease which sometimes starts from the eye. In thyroid, eyes can become prominent, red and watery. Wilson’s disease which is related to liver, is also diagnosed and confirmed through eye examination. Copper ring which forms in the eye due to accumulation of copper indicates the liver problem.

SN: What are the signs of healthy eyes?
Healthy eye should be symptom free. It should not be watery. A person should feel comfortable during his routine work and his eyes should not get tired.

SN: How frequently should eye screening be done?
It varies individually. But after 40 everybody should get screened at least twice a year even if there is no eye problem. Because in this age, the number of glasses usually keeps changing. If somebody suffers from high blood pressure or diabetes they should make sure they get checked on regular basis as these diseases can impact the eyes.

SN: What kind of retinal problems can occur?
There are many issues related to it. In diabetics, cataract and retinal detachment are seen as well. There is also possibility of leakage of fluids from eyes.

SN: Why does a squint occur and how can it be corrected?
The medical name for squint eye is strabismus. It is a condition where the eyes do not look in the same direction. While one eye looks forward to focus on an object, the other eye turns either inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards. Most squints occur in young children. As far as the reasons are concerned, the most common one is change in the number of glasses. One eye has a higher number and cannot see properly therefore squints. Moreover, if both eyes are weak, then a child tries harder to see or focus things which results in squint. The problem can be resolved by wearing glasses of appropriate number. It can also occur due to some other eye problem which can be detected by an eye specialist. If squint is by birth then it should be treated immediately. When premature babies are kept in incubator, they have the risk of getting their retina damaged due to oxygen exposure and they can lose their vision within a month.

SN: Why are eye problems increasing in children?
Well, environmental factors are responsible for it. Nowadays, children play games on screens with little distance. Parents should therefore encourage them to watch TV or play games from a safe distance. Children who have high powered glasses should especially avoid activities that can damage their vision.

SN: What role does diet play in preventing eye problems?
Well, it has a major role in this regard. Children should have a nutritious diet. Junk food should be avoided and discouraged. A good and healthy diet helps in focusing and strengthening eye muscles.

SN: Do cousin marriages promote eye problems?
Yes, such marriages contribute to the problem. Most of the eyes issues are inherited. We should avoid cousin marriages and make people aware about it.

SN: Does a child start seeing right after birth?
No, eye sight takes time in developing. A child takes at least three months to focus and see properly. In their early days some children stare at the television and lights. It is a normal and natural behavior as light attracts them and meanwhile they form their alignment with it. If they are watching TV from a normal distance then we should not worry about it.

SN: What is conjunctivitis? People avoid looking at the infected eye in fear of catching the disease. Does it spread that way?
It is an inflammation of the white portion of the eye and inner surface of the eyelid. It does not infect a person by just seeing into the eyes of a patient. If the patient rubs his eyes and touches walls, towel, chairs and tables and after that a healthy individual touches these things then the virus can infect him. Such patients should not rub their eyes. If they do so then they should wash them properly.

SN: Why do eyes dry up?
Normal tears are necessary for eyes so that they can keep the cornea moist. The main function of it is to keep eyes lubricated. Aging reduces the production of tears. Besides this some diseases are also responsible for it like arthritis, diabetes etcetera. Tear production can get disturbed which can lead to dry eyes. The patient feels sand-like feeling in the eyes. Such patients are recommended artificial tears by the physician.

SN: Does excessive rubbing cause dark circles?
Poor nutrition and sleeping habits and family history are the main causes. But eye rubbing is not a good habit and should be avoided as it disturbs the eye anatomy. Wash them properly if there is some irritation. There is also a common disease in which eyelashes start to produce oil which irritates the patient. This condition cannot be treated only with water. You need to add baby shampoo in lukewarm water and wash the eye lashes. And then dry them gently.

SN: Why do some people have puffy eyes?
Age factor is mostly responsible for puffy or swollen eyes. Besides this, there are some diseases like kidney problems and allergies which can also cause them.

SN: It is said that nearsightedness can be corrected in children. Is it true?
It can be treated with glasses and diet, but it cannot be cured. Another thing is that in children, minus number increases and plus number decreases gradually with time.

SN: Most eyes drops come with instructions that they should be used within one month. Why is it so?
These eyes drops have preservatives which have a life for one month. If used after this period, they can cause eye irritation. Now we are trying to introduce preservative free drops in Shifa International Hospital.

SN: As a home remedy, people use rose water for common eyes problems. Your take on this?
Some companies are preparing it with steroids which provide immediate results by clearing the eyes. And people feel that rose water has worked. Such practices can cause side effects in the long run and even eye problems like cataract and glaucoma. Anti-allergic drops should be used instead.

SN: How can we maintain eye hygiene?
Wash your eyes properly. Moreover, while using computers and mobiles, the screen light should not be very sharp as it can hurt the eyes. Also, use anti glare screens for eye protection.

SN: Anything left that you would like to add at the end?
Do not take your eye problems lightly. The earlier you come to a specialist the higher the chances of better treatment outcomes. Mostly glaucoma patients come to a doctor when they have totally lost their vision. In such cases, nothing can be done. Cataract surgery should not be delayed. Besides this, people should not hesitate in wearing glasses and maintain eye hygiene. Diseases like diabetes should not be taken lightly and should be kept under control as they can lead to total blindness.

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