The coronavirus epidemic increased the amount of screen time in our daily lives dramatically, from Netflix binges to Zoom meetings. Because spending so much time on gadgets may be stressful on the eyes, you’re not alone if you’ve noticed an increase in headaches, eye tiredness, or impaired vision since starting remote work. Digital eye strain, often known as “computer vision syndrome,” causes these symptoms (yes, a real medical term, according to The American Optometric Association).
First, the good news: Despite its name, eye strain is not a physical injury, and there is little danger of long-term eye damage. It’s still no fun, and in the digital era, it may make life tough. Fortunately, you may take easy actions to prevent or recover from these symptoms.
What factors contribute to digital eye strain?
Humans blink once every four seconds when they aren’t staring at displays, according to Priyanka Kumar, an ophthalmologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Each blink expels a coating of new tears, a lubricating and protective mixture of oil, water, and mucus. We blink roughly half as frequently while we’re looking at a screen, according to Kumar. This might make our eyes feel gritty or dry. They may hurt, burn, or tear your skin. These tears aren’t the same as the ones we make when we blink; they’re produced when our brain detects that our eyes are too dry, and because they’re mainly water, they evaporate rapidly. “Tearing is a signal that the eyes are dry,” Kumar explains.
The headaches and impaired vision that often accompany digital eye strain have a different source. The continuous action of concentrating our sight on the same distance for a lengthy amount of time might fatigue the muscles that coordinate our eyes when we spend hours on screens. According to Weise, it’s like running marathons all day. Anyone can get this collection of symptoms if they spend enough time in front of a screen, but those with an underlying problem with eye coordination are more prone, according to Weise. If you’re experiencing headaches or blurred vision, or if you find it easier to focus on your computer screen when you close one eye, Weise recommends having your eyes examined.
When using a screen is harmful
Adults may experience discomfort and inconvenience from eye strain, but it does not harm the eye. But, according to Kumar, it’s a different story for youngsters under the age of eight. This is because their ocular muscles are still developing. There’s some evidence that a lot of screen time can lead to nearsightedness, a condition in which distant things look blurrier than they should. According to several research, children’s nearsightedness increased during the COVID-19 epidemic, owing to the amount of time they spent studying online. According to one research published in JAMA Ophthalmology, the rise might be up to three times. A prescription for glasses or contact lenses is usually sufficient to address this problem. Nearsightedness, on the other hand, can cause retinal detachment, which can end in blindness in extreme situations.
Eye strain avoidance
Protecting your eyes from screen time isn’t difficult, and it may easily be included in your routine. Taking pauses, Kumar believes, is the most crucial step. The rule of 20-20-20-2 is something she promotes: Try to spend two hours of the day outside by looking at anything 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. (When we’re outside, our eyes naturally go toward distant objects, which is a nice change from focusing on what’s immediately in front of us.) Set a timer or a target for how much work you’ll get done before taking a break, according to Kumar.
It’s also essential to put your monitor in the right spot. Without tilting your head, place your screen about two feet from your eyes and a few inches above where your vision typically settles. Your eyes will have to work harder than they have to if you get any closer.
Artificial tears, Kumar adds, may assist if you’re feeling dryness or burning. If you wear contact lenses, consider switching to glasses, at least while you’re at work—contact lenses can aggravate dry eyes.
Last but not least, Weise recommends avoiding glare. Glare pinballs about our eyes instead of shining in a straight line to the center of our retina, making it harder for our eyes to focus. The muscles that dilate the pupils, for example, are overworked as a result of this. Limit your work outside and turn off strong overhead lights to minimize glare, but avoid working in low-light circumstances. Anti-reflective coatings on your glasses can also assist reduce glare exposure, according to Weise.
Don’t anticipate immediate results once you’ve started using these tactics. If you already have an eyestrain, it may take some time to feel normal again, according to Scott Drexler, an ophthalmology professor at the University of Pittsburgh University of Medicine. You don’t have to give up all screen time, thankfully. Eye strain recovery resembles prevention in appearance. Within a few days, you should feel much better.
Is it worthwhile to spend money on blue-light-filtering lenses?
The harmful consequences of blue light have been well-documented. Blue light, according to some optometrists and opticians (licensed practitioners who fit, sell, and prescription lenses but are not medical physicians), destroys the retina, causing long-term vision issues. A pair of blue-light-filtering lenses will set you back an extra $50 to $100. These assertions are based on a few studies that indicated that direct exposure to blue light from displays caused retinal damage in rats and human cells grown in a lab. However, due to a lack of data, the American Academy of Ophthalmology does not suggest blue-light filtering lenses. People cannot be compared to rat studies or lab circumstances.
Some blue light is, without a doubt, harmful. Consider the sun’s UV radiation, which can cause retinal degeneration and cancer in certain people. Blue light, on the other hand, isn’t entirely bad. Our gadgets don’t emit ultraviolet light, and the amount of blue light they do expose us to is negligible—roughly one-thousandth of the amount of ambient blue light on a cloudy day, according to Weise. A high-quality pair of UVA/UVB-filtering sunglasses to wear when spending lengthy amounts of time in the sun is a lot better investment than blue-light filtering computer lenses, she says, if you’re concerned about your long-term eye health.
Adults do not need to be concerned about the long-term consequences of screen usage on their eyes, but they also do not need to suffer from headaches, dry eyes, or impaired vision. Why don’t you begin right away? Giving your eyes a rest is probably a good idea right now.