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Optometrists discuss eye health and the pandemic in AHPRA podcast

A new episode in a podcast series by the health regulator looks at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected eye health, in both obvious and obscure ways.

Ms Tash Miles, host of the Taking care podcast, talks to optometrists Mr Tim Martin and Mr Luke Arundel about the effects on eye health stemming from a greater reliance on technology and increased time spent indoors for work, study and social connection during COVID-19.

Luke Arundel.

Created by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) with new episodes released fortnightly, the podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Previous episodes have covered issues such as rural GPs, dentistry during a pandemic and responsible advertising.

Martin, who teaches at the University of Melbourne and practices at Martin & Wilson Eyecare in Narre Warren, and Arundel, chief clinical officer at Optometry Australia, discuss how COVID’s impact has been wide-reaching.

Apart from changes in vision, the pandemic has resulted in behavioural changes, such as switching from glasses to contacts to accommodate increased mask wearing, or the reverse: some contact lens users return to glasses while they’re at home.

“Across the profession we’ve seen things that have never existed before, [such as] Mask Associated Dry Eye (MADE); this just has never been an issue,” Arundel said.

Excessive screen time coupled with the limitations on face-to-face optometrist consultations has also increased the risk of more serious eye diseases developing because they aren’t diagnosed early, such as myopia.

A new phenomenon dubbed “quarantine myopia” has evolved in the wake of a Chinese study that found myopia prevalence was three times higher in six-year-olds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Myopia is a big issue moving forward and into the future,” Martin said. “More kids are coming in – now that they can (come in) out of lockdown – with short sightedness … we’ll wait and see.”

The full 30-minute podcast featuring Martin and Arundel, who also share tips for practitioners, can be found here. It is also available on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

More reading:

Chinese myopia-lockdown study a portent for Australia

Face mask fogging distorts perimetry results

Helping patients overcome the ‘foggy glasses’ dilemma

Why face masks cause dry eye, and what ECPs can do to help