Mumbai, February 26, 2021: The ongoing pandemic has led to increased severity and morbidity in eye conditions of people due to delayed treatment and lifestyle changes enforced by the lockdown. The elderly population has been especially impacted, with cases of mature cataracts shooting up five times in recent months due to patients above 65 staying away from hospitals out of Covid fear, senior ophthalmologists of Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital have said. According to them, the number of people coming to eye hospitals with serious complications including vision loss has increased manifold in the last six months.
Said Dr. Vandana Jain, Regional Medical Director – Maharashtra, Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital, Navi Mumbai: “In the last three months of 2019, before the pandemic had hit fully, just 10 percent of all cataract patients coming to our hospital were suffering from mature cataract. In the last three months, this figure has jumped to 50%, a five-fold increase. The reason is that during the last one year, patients have been worried about contracting coronavirus if they visit a hospital. We have not seen such cases of hyper-mature cataracts before the pandemic.”
Dr. Vandana Jain added: “Most people with pre-existing eye problems neglected follow-ups with doctors during the pandemic, leading to aggravation of their condition. Others with newly developed eye conditions also waited to consult the doctors, which led to serious consequences, including loss of vision. Though patient footfalls are increasing, they are still nowhere the pre-Covid levels. The fear of the virus is putting us behind several years.”
The impact was not limited to cataracts and elderly population alone, according to doctors. Said Dr. Vandana Jain: “Cases of severe dry eyes due to digital eye strain jumped from 10% before the pandemic to 30% now, as people working from home got habituated to looking at digital screens for a long time. We also noticed worsening of existing cases of glaucoma in patients as they did not come for regular follow-ups. People with diabetes ignored their eye check-ups, leading to severe complications in their retina. Pandemic has had a huge socio-economic impact too, with many eye patients struggling financially to meet the surgery expenses. Many cataract patients coming to us are opting to get operated in only one eye to save money.”
Doctors of Dr. Agarwals Eye Hospital have advised people not to neglect their eye problems in pandemic times. Tele-consult is a good option and, in many cases, is enough to get the right advice. Sometimes the doctor will advise to consult in person. That is the time when not doing anything can aggravate a minor eye problem to a more serious one. Rather than delaying treatment, patients should choose an eye hospital where all safety precautions are being implemented, the doctors said.
Dr. Vandana Jain added: “Diabetic patients above 50 years of age need to get their eyes screened at least once a year, as 30 percent of them go on to develop some form of diabetic eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy. Any delay can create more severe complications, including loss of vision. This is true for Glaucoma patients too. If their condition is unstable or they develop unusual symptoms such as eye pain or changes in vision, they should see the doctor immediately.”