Chinwe Dike, an Enugu-based optometrist, speaks with PREMIUM TIMES about how the use of laptops and phones can affect the eyes. She also speaks about the prolonged impact of the use of antiseptic soaps, firewood for cooking, and eye-lashes.
PT: Can continuous staring at phone or laptop screen lead to any eye problem?
DIKE: No, it will not lead to blindness, except there are other underlying factors. However, we usually advise those that are always on their gadgets, their phones, to wear what we call protective eyewear, it must have what we call anti-glare protection, anti-reflective protection and what we call blue-coated lenses. These lenses help to reduce the rays of light that enter the eye. So, if one is always on the phone, it’s either you reduce your phone brightness or you wear lenses with reflections because it’s going to have this anti-reflective coating on it. And it’s also going to have blue-coated lenses which are for those that are always on their systems. So, these lenses will help reduce the rays of light that enter the eye because some of these rays are harmful to the eyes.
It (exposure to gadgets) is going to cause strains. It is going to cause what we call asthenopic symptoms that can lead to further eye problems, like refractive errors and all that. You could wake up with pains, redness of the eye, itching, and prolonged headache.
PT: How about having some soap particles, let’s say from antiseptic soap, enter your eyes when bathing?
DIKE: It can lead to allergy. There’s something called allergic conjunctivitis and also bacteria could enter through all that. So, you expose your eyes to either allergic conjunctivitis or bacterial conjunctivitis.
Allergic conjunctivitis is due to allergy, maybe the soap that enters the eye or exposing the eyes to very harsh chemicals like Dettol and other antiseptics. So, if you expose your eyes to all these things, it’s going to cause inflammation, maybe redness of the eye, injections in the eye and eye discharge, in case of bacteria. You must treat it. If you don’t, it can lead to a more severe issue. It can clear on its own, in cases of allergy, but in cases of bacteria, maybe there’s discharge, you need to check the eye, to know what drug to use.
PT: How about rubbing the eyes after waking up from sleep?
DIKE: Well, the questions to ask: Are the eyes itching? Is there anything the person is experiencing before that resulted to rubbing of the eyes? Is there a discharge? If there’s discharge, there is bacteria and the person needs to check the eyes.
If it is a habit, as long as you’re not using your fingernails to scratch the eyes, that’s fine. But if you are using your fingernails to scratch the eyes and you damage the cornea, that’s another risk.
PT: Working under scorching sun without sunglasses, does it pose any risk to the eyes?
DIKE: Exposing the eyes to the sun, it causes a lot of damage to the eyes. First of all, we have what is called cataract. You can develop early onset cataracts. The person can develop what we call Pterygium – you see growths on the conjunctiva and so many other things that it can lead to. So, it is advised that anyone who works under the sun, should always wear what we call sunglasses, or for those who wear prescription glasses, you can wear what we call photochromic lens with anti-reflective coating on it.
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PT: We’ve seen a lot of people cook with firewood. Can this cause any problems to the eyes?
DIKE: Yes. It is harmful to the eyes. Generally, it is advised that everyone should avoid using things that cause smoke, especially to the eyes because this can induce allergy. It can induce Pterygium and all that. There is a growth in the eyes known as Pterygium. Smoke and dust make the growth worse. So, if anyone uses (firewood), the person should wear protective glasses.
PT: Let’s talk about eyelashes, contact lenses.
DIKE: We recommend contact lens in some cases of very high refractive errors, but not for everyday use.
A lot of people are beginning to abuse beauty products like lashes and all that. You go to the market, you see the techniques they’re using to do these things. They’re very unhygienic and they are not observing the clean routines that they should observe before going to someone’s eyes. And after these procedures, people go down with allergy or worse situations.
I don’t know the chemicals they are using for the lashes. We can advise you to protect your eyes. In the best, I can only tell the person not to fix (the lashes) or if you must fix, you can fix in a place where they will be very careful with your eyes and not put your eyes at risk. But it shouldn’t be on a regular basis.
PT: There is this belief about onions – that when you cut it and your eyes become teary, it helps to clear the eyes?
DIKE: If the eye is tearing, that doesn’t mean it’s clearing the eye. People have this myth about it and you can’t change this myth because a lot of people believe in it. To the best of my knowledge, there is really no eye benefit from the tears produced by onion sensation as widely acclaimed by many. It is a part of traditional eye medication that people go about using. I have seen a patient who practised one of these myths and came in here with a melting cornea.
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