Is it Conjunctivitis or COVID? Expert Advice by Dr. Major Rajesh Kar, Ophthalmologist & Surgeon, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Expert

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“Looking at mobiles, TV, tablets, etc does not increase the chance of having glasses, rather if the child needs glasses, he/she will need it irrespective of whether they watch a gadget or not,” says Dr. Major Rajesh Kar on children being exposed to digital life in today’s times.

An ophthalmologist is a specialist doctor who is highly trained and skilled at diagnosing, monitoring, and treating a variety of eye conditions, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts. They are experts in medical treatment, surgery, and microsurgery for eye conditions and diseases. One may need an ophthalmologist if they have a pre-existing eye condition or a new eye problem that requires advanced care or surgery

Dr. Major Rajesh Kar is an Ophthalmologist & Surgeon along with being a Diabetes & Cardiovascular Expert and a Law Student. He has served in the Indian Army from 2008 – 2015 as a Medical doctor and later pursued his Master in Surgery from Command Hospital, Kolkata in 2019. Currently, he carries his own practice as a consultant eye specialist Phaco and Microsurgery. 

Eyes need special attention

The eye is the most important and sensitive organ of our body. Dr. Rajesh feels that it is unfortunate that people ignore eyes whereas the eyes need special attention, “It is not our fault or the people's fault. It may be the fault of the national policymakers that we could not make ophthalmologists reachable or available to reach the grassroots level. However, whoever is fortunate enough to have their ophthalmologist within their reach must look after their eyes,” he says. 


Importance of eye check-up before the child is born

Dr. Rajesh throws light on the importance of eye examinations not only for after birth but before birth as well, “Actually eyes come under the evaluation or examination much before the baby is born, that is when the baby is in the mother’s womb. We have to be very careful if there are any abnormalities that might have the vision involved or any congenital issues that we have to look after. If a mother has got some problem then the baby may get some eye-related problem as well for example if the mother has toxoplasma then the baby might get a cataract, if the mother has rubella, the baby can have a cataract and other eye-related issues, or in babies, if you find any chromosomal anomalies like down syndrome, which is very significant, then we have to be very careful. After birth for neonates, there are few things in the USA, unfortunately not in India yet, a comprehensive eye check-up for the babies is done as soon as the baby is born, without that the complete examination is impossible,” he says.

Coming to eye check-up after birth Dr. Rajesh explains, “However there are few situations where we have to be very careful like if the babies are underweight – below 1.5 kilogram or premature birth babies that are born before 32 weeks, their retina which is the main part of the eye keeps developing till birth and even after that, I am talking about full-term babies, their eyes are still developing so we have to keep this in our minds.’’


Eye problems can be taken care of till the first 8 years of life 

Dr. Rajesh explains in simple terms why it is important to get the children’s eye checked before 8 years of life, “As the child grows up like in childhood, the most common problem is that of refraction and this problem is symptomless, and we being responsible parents need to look and examine our children whether they have any kind of problem or not. Whether they are squeezing out their eyes or whether they are putting extra pressure while they are playing any games or are they adjusting their head to align with the TV, whether their eyes are following any object simultaneously or whether their eyes are drooping or have any abnormality.

We being the parents need to be vigilant since children will not come out to say that they have issues, they will just try to adjust. If one eye is weaker than the other eye then the stronger eye takes over and the other eye remains suppressed. So we must visit an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye check-up in childhood. Why I emphasize this is because our eyes grow till 8 years and then it becomes an adult eye. So after 8 years, there is a very little scope that you can rectify any problems.  That is why the National School Eye Health program is also there for below 6 years and any children above 5 years must visit an ophthalmologist to get a checkup done. After childhood, an adolescent is in a growing phase. In adolescence, there again is the refraction problem that is the power-related problem that comes into play and some other issues. Can we imagine ourselves blind even for a minute? No right! Only being vigilant and the strong belief that eyes are a special organ and we have to take care of them helps and seeing an ophthalmologist are the only things that are important,” he says.


Eyes do not require any special care

Dr. Rajesh says that there is no special care required for eyes, “Eyes do not demand any special care but yes, this is the organ that is directly in contact with the environment, blood vessels can be seen which you cannot see in any other part of your body, you can see of the eyes and since they are exposed to the environment, there are scores of microbes, virus so that is what it needs. It needs a close examination and that is it,” he says.


Use of electronic gadgets and the risk of having spectacles in kids

All these years’ people have been hesitant to give mobile or electronic gadgets to their children, but in the current scenario with school classes coming online, they are left with no choice that is when the concern of eye health rises in the minds of the parents. Dr. Rajesh explains that there are few kids who actually want to wear spectacles as they become happy as it gives them a studious look, “But parents never want their kids to get a number. Having glasses has no relation to watching TV. Rather watching TV without glasses is more painful for the kids. So looking at mobiles, TV, tablets, does not increase the chance of having glasses, rather if the child needs glasses, he/she will need it irrespective of whether they watch a gadget or not. So why to blame electronic gadgets and why to keep them away from children since that has become a part and parcel of our lives,” he explains.


Eyecare in times of COVID-19

A lot has been said about COVID, Dr. Rajesh throws light on the subject that COVID is a normal seasonal virus, it is a part of the SARS group of virus and was always omnipresent,

“But we know that all viruses are self-limiting, they come, cause issues and go away but this time we are having issues due to their replications, new strains and hence they are causing problems. So we need to take care. Again, as I mentioned, eyes are the only organ which are in contact with the environment hence eyes are an open way to droplets, spits, any kinds of contaminated liquids, this is the season of pink eye disease or conjunctivitis as we know. Being a virus, all viral symptoms will be there in COVID also, since COVID too is a virus. If COVID happens in the eyes, it will create symptoms of conjunctivitis – redness, blurring of vision, swelling of eyelids, itching but that does not mean that any person having red eyes has COVID, there has to be other systemic symptoms as well like sore throat, loss of smell and taste, respiratory distress in some advance cases. But yes, the eye is the root of getting infected so we need to wear protective glasses, so eyes do not get contaminated with any virus contamination. Even if we get redness, stickiness then we have to see an ophthalmologist, we should not panic that it is COVID,” he says.


Computer vision syndrome on the rise

Dr. Rajesh explains that one has to be on the computer to be affected by computer vision syndrome. “Who all are affected? Whoever sees computers/ gadgets for more than a certain period of time. We all are on our mobiles and gadgets for our own reasons we have to be careful about it especially children. Because children have strong muscle tone, when we look at objects that are near like the computer which is within 2 – 3 feet so that becomes near vision and our lens needs to be bent forward with the help of ciliary muscles and these muscles are very strong in children once that muscle is squeezed, it remains like that for long and does not relax as in adults, so kids are more prone to eye pain,” he says. Dr. Rajesh goes on to explain that computer vision syndrome has 3 parts:

  1. Neck & shoulder
  2. Extraocular muscles
  3. Cornea

“Most of us keep our mobiles below the eye level due to which the neck is bent forward; we should keep it at the eye level. Due to the bending of the neck and the cervical muscles, there are headaches as ciliary muscles are continually bent for a long time so there is muscle fatigue. When we talk, weblink frequently which is important to clean our eyes, but when we are on mobile doing some work, we blink less and that leads to dryness of the eyes, itching, and pain,” he says.


Diagnosis of Computer Vision Syndrome

Dr. Rajesh lists down as to how to diagnose Computer Vision Syndrome:

  1. It takes about 4-6 hours to develop these symptoms. 
  2. Gadgets not kept at an eye-level 
  3. Headaches, straining in eyes, blurring of vision, etc
  4. Giddiness, foreign body sensation, irritation in the eyes
  5. Squeezing of eyes
  6. Fatigue


Treatment of Computer Vision Syndrome

Dr. Rajesh suggests taking a holistic approach to the treatment of Computer Vision Syndrome:

  1. The gadgets should be at eye height or eye level
  2.  There should be sufficient light in the room
  3. There should be sufficient air in the room
  4. There should be a proper resolution of the screen
  5. Wear Anti-reflective glasses or put on your monitor that will prevent the infrared rays that come out from the screen.


Request to the teachers

Dr. Rajesh puts in a personal request to the teachers to promote the following things for themselves and their children:

  1. Eye hygiene - Take a break every 20 mins for 1 – 2 mins. I request this to all the teachers as well. Ask the children to turn off the tab or laptop for 2 – 3 mins and then resume.
  2. Put some water in the eyes
  3. 20-20-20 formula - Very important formula to remember is that the first 20 is 20 minutes maximum to be on the screen at a stretch after 20 minutes take a mandate off for 20 seconds and the last 20 is look at something 20 feet away and count 20 times as you blink normally.
  4. If required, meet an ophthalmologist so they can give you an eye-soothing drop to help.


Eye checkup must be a part of a complete body profile examination

Dr. Rajesh throws light on this subject that earlier the eye check-up was not a part of the medical examination but now they are. “Now it is included in all governmental and private organizations when someone goes through a medical examination. When we were studying, we were taught that the general examination is incomplete without an eye examination. The eye has to be checked in every annual examination. More national policies are coming up to be strict. Even in schools, there are regular eye checkup programs. And this should come from within, that eyes are the most important cause if you can see, you know, if one is unable to see well, you would not know about things around you,” he says

Eyecare in Chronic Diseases

Diabetes is the major cause of blindness worldwide. Every person who has hypertension and other chronic diseases, must visit an ophthalmologist frequently suggests Dr. Rajesh, “There is diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration. Loss of vision is irreversible so there is a crucial need to take care of your eyes as soon as you are diagnosed with a chronic disease. Even a physician when they diagnose a disease, they must counsel the patients to visit an ophthalmologist for a check-up to keep their eyes healthy. Many times we have diagnosed that the patient has diabetes during a routine eye check-up and In fact, it was manifested 10 years back and the patient had no idea about it. So there is a huge value of eye check-up in chronic diseases,” he says. 


Important guidelines to take care of eyes during COVID

Dr. Rajesh suggests that “Eyecare is a part of general prophylaxis, even the government is asking us to stay indoors unless it is very important. So if one is going out make sure to:

  1. Wear protective glasses as eyes do not have a protective layer as even minute droplets of liquids or sneeze from someone might enter through your eyes.
  2. Maintain a social distance as we might have happened with each one of us that when we are speaking to someone standing close, the spit from their mouth might come onto your face.
  3. Wear a face shield if it is possible. 
  4. After you come back, make sure to wash your face, eyes, and body with normal water gently because we need to handle our eyes as if handling a newborn baby,” he says.

Edited By- Rabia Mistry Mulla

Contributed By: Dr. Major Rajesh Kar, MBBS, MS, Eye specialist & surgeon
Tags : #DoctorsSpeak #Drrajesh #opthalmologist #Eyesurgeon #eyecare #conjunctivitis #ComputerVisionSyndrome #202020formula #digitallife #bluerays #chronicdisease #eyecareindiabetes #coronavirusineyes #COVID19 #EyecareInCovid #comjunctivitis #eyecareforchildren #expertadvice #smitakumar #smitasahaykumar #indianarmydoctor

About the Author

Rabia Mistry Mulla

'For vessels to change their course, they have to be hit by a strong wind first!'
So here I am penning down my thoughts on health and research after 6 years of planning Diets.
Being a Clinical Dietitian & a Diabetes Educator I always had a thing for writing, alas, been hit by the winds towards a new course!
You can write to me at [email protected]

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