Staying home during the pandemic has affected our bodies in more ways than we think

People have seen a change in their muscles, bones, brain, teeth and even eyesight during the pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been a dramatic shift to indoor life, whether it’s because of lockdowns, work-from-home orders or recent unemployment.

While the pandemic first began, many people felt relief because they received a break from working, commuting and the daily life of pre-pandemic work, according to the 2021 American Family Survey, a nationally representative annual study conducted by YouGov for the Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

As time went by, complaints about experiencing depression, sadness and even unwanted weight gain started rolling in, as reporter Lois M. Collins wrote for the Deseret News.

But those aren’t the only changes people are experiencing. Staying at home for long periods of time can also affect your eyesight, skin, muscles, bones, nerves, teeth and even your brain.

Here’s a breakdown of the pandemic’s impact on different areas of your body.

Eyesight

Increased screentime and putting off eye exams are two ways the pandemic is affecting people’s eyesight, per CBS News. Most people don’t realize how their sight is failing them because the brain tries to compensate for it.

Jason C.S. Yam, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told NBC News that his recent study “showed that less time spent outdoors and more time spent on near work, including screen time, is associated with faster progression in short-sightedness, or myopia.”

In the study, children were divided into two groups — the pre-COVID-19 cohort and the COVID-19 cohort. They all received ocular examinations and answered standardized questionnaires about their lifestyle, which included questions like how much time they spent outdoors.

While myopia may seem like an innocuous condition, it can predispose people to other ocular complications and increased risk of vision loss later in life, he said.

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Skin

Being indoors can protect you from sunburns and skin cancer, but there are big drawbacks as well, like a drop in vitamin D levels, which plays an important role in protecting and rejuvenating skin.

According to BuzzFeed, small amounts of sun exposure can help replenish these vitamin levels.

But that’s not all.

“Stress can be linked to exacerbation of various skin conditions such as rosacea and eczema,” said Dr. Monica Li, a clinical instructor at the Department of Dermatology & Skin Science at the University of British Columbia, according to Today’s Parent. “The skin and brain are connected: Stress can increase inflammation at the skin surface, which drives some of these skin conditions.”

Masks, though helping curb the spread of the virus, have also become a culprit in the woes of complexion, causing breakouts and allergies.

“This is acne that appears on sites of friction, pressure, occlusion or rubbing leading to irritation and inflammation of hair follicles,” said Li.

Muscles and bones

Sitting with a bad posture, hunched over a laptop can’t be good. Reduced physical activity has a direct relation to the deterioration of muscle mass, according to a study.

This can lead to long-term problems related to mobility and balance, trigging a range of other serious health conditions, too.

Add low vitamin D levels to the list and it becomes a real problem.

“Vitamin D deficiency not only affects bone health, but also muscle injuries, and tears are more common when levels are low,” said Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon at Premier Orthopedics And Sports Medicine in Pennsylvania and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons spokesperson, according to Buzzfeed News.

Brain

Focusing on singular tasks has become extremely hard during the pandemic, according to experts. In fact, “brain fog” has become a common COVID-19 symptom.

“Brain fog” is a term used to describe the feeling of being mentally sluggish and fuzzy. It can hamper your ability to focus or recall information.

“The potential value of this information that you’re not paying attention to could be very high,” Thomas Hills, professor of psychology and co-director of Global Research Priority in Behaviour, Brain & Society at the University of Warwick, according to Spark.

“In times of uncertainty, we tend to find ourselves spending a lot of time looking around, wondering, ‘Where’s the threat?’” he added.

Teeth

As more people are returning to normal life, 30% of dentists have noticed an increased number of cavities and gum disease, as well as an uptick in cracked teeth and sore jaws, per AARP.

“The longer you wait to take care of an oral problem, the more extensive — and expensive — it gets,” said Leonardo Marchini, associate professor in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry

Oral hygiene becomes much more important with age. It is also hard to take care of your teeth at home — you can’t scrape off plague, food debris and bacteria that calcify on teeth.

If you neglect your oral health, you may develop serious oral conditions and diseases like cavities, gingivitis, cracked tooth syndrome and more.

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Stomach

People often forget that our brain is connected to the gut, so emotional stress can manifest itself as digestive problems.

“Stress and anxiety can trigger more frequent or stronger contractions in the GI tract which some may perceive as uncomfortable or even painful,” said Michigan Medicine gastroenterologist Dr. William Chey, a professor of gastroenterology and nutritional sciences at Michigan Medicine.

The symptoms can appear as heartburn, nausea, bloating, and, in some cases, rectal pain. Stress eating can also cause problems, which is why eating healthy and sticking to a routine is crucial. But it’s also important to exercise, practice breathing exercises and get enough sleep to keep the anxiety at bay.