By Mr Shafiq Rehman, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Optegra Eye Health Care (www.optegra.com).
Research Optegra Eye Health Care reveals that 72 percent of GPs and optometrists have witnessed that imperfect sight can lead to depression in their patients.
On top of the normal challenges of poor vision, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the entire population and not only changed the way in which many of us live our lives, but also our quality of life.
During lockdown, we spent significant amounts of time at home away from family and friends. We turned to technology to keep in touch as well as to entertain and distract us, to attend online school lessons and to enable many of us to work from home.
Latest research A specialist eye hospital group www.optegra.com reveals that 32 per cent of adults are now using their screens more than the usual amount since the start of lockdown, increasing to 34 per cent amongst women.
Reasons for this increased use include online shopping, chatting to family, banking, watching Netflix/streaming TV and working. However, all this screen time has an impact on the health of our eyes, with 19 percent of adults saying they get eye strain from too much time on screens.
More worryingly though, this impact on our quality of vision is linked to our quality of life, particularly amongst 16-24 year olds.
Whilst we read about mental health concerns for all ages, young people appear particularly at risk and it seems vision has its role to play.
Almost a third of this age group1 who wear glasses, contacts or consider themselves to have imperfect vision and say that this poor vision reduces their confidence with socialising and meeting new people.
Two thirds (66 per cent) say they would feel a lot happier if they could see clearly and 40 per cent say their poor vision has knocked their overall confidence.
One such person, whose vision has impacted his well being is Quentin Maleine, a 21 year old barber who suffered from floaters. These dots and lines distracted his vision on a daily basis, making him lose not only his confidence but even his job. He explains:
“For years I have had these floaters, all day every day for seven years; and I saw many doctors to ask for help, only to be turned away that they were “just floaters”. But this was not at a normal level – they were so debilitating they affected everything and I was thinking about them every minute of the day. One day I was doing a wet shave on a client and a floater distracted me and I cut his face and lost my job.
“I can honestly say my eye condition made me depressed. I cannot remember a day when I was completely happy.”
Quentin has since had his floaters removed through a vitrectomy procedure at Optegra Eye Hospital London, and says his life as well as his sight is now transformed.
The research1 by specialist eye hospital group Optegra, reveals that across all adult age groups:
- One in 10 say they feel depressed by their poor vision
- Over a fifth (21 per cent) say their poor sight knocks their confidence.
- Over a quarter (28 per cent) feel frustrated
- And over half (55 per cent) say they would feel a lot happier if they could see clearly
This link between good eyesight and mental health is backed by medical experts, with 96 per cent of optometrists and opticians surveyed saying their patients can be quite distressed when poor vision affects their lifestyle.
So, what can be done to help improve our mood and our outlook?
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help improve both vision and wellbeing:
- If you are a smoker, try to stop. Only 53 per cent of UK adults realise smoking can damage your eyesight. For your overall health, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do.
- Diet is also important. While 54 per cent of adults are concerned about calorie intake, only 28 per cent think foods protect sight. A simple diet change can help your vision but 72 percent say they do not know which foods are good for the eyes. Try the traffic light diet and eat red, amber (orange/yellow) and green foods.
- Explore your options. If your eyesight is getting you down, start with an eye test to find out exactly what your individual needs are and then explore the many, many options so you can improve both your sight and hopefully your general wellbeing too.
These figures may seem alarming, especially that poor vision is having this negative and holistic impact for younger adults – that it is impacting their lifestyle, confidence and even their mental health.
For me, as a surgeon, they are less surprising as I see on a day-to-day basis the huge impact that poor vision can have on lifestyle and wellbeing.
So many patients are very frustrated by their dependence on glasses or contacts, while for others it goes beyond this. It makes them feel really down, and can certainly impact their frame of mind. Especially for our patients with more serious conditions like glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration, their lifestyle can be hugely affected and so we are working to help as many patients as possible overcome this hurdle, and live their life more fully.
Thankfully medical technology has advanced so much there are now many treatment options and so we can assist the vast majority of patients to find a solution which improves their eyesight and also then their general wellbeing and quality of life.
For any enquiries regarding your eye health please contact us at:
Optegra.com : 0800 358 0825
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Mr Shafiq Rehman is Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Optegra.
He has dedicated his professional life to ophthalmology since 1994. His first mentors noticed his natural ability to meet the demands of ophthalmic surgery and Shafiq sailed through higher surgical training gaining his CCST in 2002 and was invited to take up a substantive NHS consultant post at Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Trust in the same year.
Over the next ten years, Shafiq proved himself to be a great pioneer of breakthrough treatments, he has distinguished himself on numerous occasions by spearheading major ophthalmic developments.
He continues to devote much time and energy towards further innovation with particular emphasis on helping to encourage the adoption of new ideas wherever they have been clearly proven to help improve the lives of his patients. He works tirelessly to identify innovative new developments in macular degeneration, cataract surgery and vision correction technology, bringing major advancements in eye care from around the world. Most recently helping to bring the exciting new SMILE laser vision correction surgery to Optegra Manchester.
Since leaving the NHS in 2016 Shafiq has been able to give his full focus to his independent practice at Optegra Eye Hospitals Group, making great progress in further developing several areas of his practice focusing on cataract treatments and vision correction surgery. He is lead clinician for Optegra’s Cataract & Refractive Surgery services across the seven UK Optegra Eye Hospitals.