If you stare at screens for more than two hours a day, every day, your eyes are likely to get tired.
Tired eyes, also called eyestrain, are made worse by focused activity like using a computer.
SeeVu optical optometrist Ashton Dean explained that we tend to blink less when using computers and other digital devices. Blinking plays an important role in eye lubrication.
Sometimes we use digital screens at less than ideal distances or angles or in inappropriate lighting conditions, and use glare or reflection.
Dean noted that uncorrected vision and other underlying eye issues can also make computer eye strain worse.
To diagnose eye strain, your optometrist will assess your symptoms and perform a comprehensive eye exam. Expect questions about what factors might be causing your symptoms. A thorough eye exam will determine the root cause of your eyestrain and give you the guidance you need to eliminate this problem.
Dean noted that treating eye strain involves changing your daily habits or your environment. Others may need treatment for an underlying eye condition.
“For some people, wearing glasses prescribed for specific activities, such as using a computer or reading, helps reduce eye strain. Your optometrist may suggest that you take regular eye breaks to help your eyes focus at different distances,” Dean noted.
The optometrist recommended the following steps to treat eye strain:
1. Reduce screen time
A study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests that myopia (a condition in which near objects appear clear, but distant objects are blurred) has been a growing concern during the pandemic, especially among school-going children and adolescents due to the online school. This can cause eye strain. To reduce risk, reduce screen time as much as possible. Take calls instead of video calls, play board games instead of video games, and read books.
2. Take breaks
Take frequent breaks when working on any digital device. Follow the 20:20:20:20 rule. About every 20 minutes pause for 20 seconds and look at something 20 meters away eg trees in the yard outside and blink at least 20 times.
3. Adjust the lighting
Excessive blue light from screens could contribute to eye strain and even disrupt sleep. This can lead to pain and puffiness around the eyes. The darker the room, the smaller the screen, the more your eyes get tired. Use diffused lighting in your environment to reduce eye strain.
4. Wear glasses
If you use glasses, check your vision frequently. It is recommended that adults have an eye exam every two years unless monitored by an optometrist for eye conditions that may arise from systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Children should have an annual eye exam because their prescription may change more quickly as a child grows. Anti-reflective coatings are useful for those who spend long hours in front of the screen because they eliminate reflections emanating from digital screens.
Dean also suggested people pay attention to their diet to make sure it’s rich in nutrients essential for eye health.
5. Focus on diet and supplements
A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is essential for healthy eyes, especially in children. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, luteinzinc and vitamins C and E could help prevent vision problems and slow progression of eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Foods rich in the following can help provide these nutrients:
– Green leafy vegetables
– Salmon, tuna and other oily fish
– Eggs, nuts, beans and other non-meat protein sources
– Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
– Vitamins such as Eye caps, Occuvite have the nutrients necessary for good eye health.
6. Avoid rubbing your eyes
Try not to rub your eyes unnecessarily as this may cause minor changes to your refractive correction/prescription. Avoid touching your eyes as you can cause infection with unwashed hands.
7. Eye examination
Visit your optometrist if you experience headaches, redness, burning eyes or blurred vision. Self-treatment is not advised, although lubricating eye drops can be used for mild irritation (Refresh, Systane, Tears Natural to name a few can help with dry eye).
Although eye strain can be bothersome, Dean said it’s unlikely to lead to permanent eye damage or conditions.
“It is important to note that while eye strain in itself is not sight threatening, certain eye strain symptoms such as blurred/double vision and headaches can also present with more concerning eye/neurological conditions.”
The optometrist said these conditions should be ruled out by your health care provider.