* Due to the risks of working in person during the Covid-19 pandemic, many professionals are now working from the comfort of their homes. While working from home has perks, like wearing sweatpants during meetings and getting extra snuggles with your pet, it also presents health challenges.
Professionals who normally interact with people in person such as lawyers, teachers, and designers are now forced to hold meetings and conversations while staring at a screen for multiple hours a day. This can lead to what the American Optometric Association calls computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain, causing symptoms like headaches and dry eyes. Too much screen time can have a detrimental effect on your eyesight, but there are several things you can do to mitigate the impact. Here are some common problems you might experience from too much screen time, and solutions.
Problem #1: You’ve developed headaches
Has your head begun to pound since you started using Zoom? You may need an updated prescription or new pair of glasses. Outdated prescriptions, or not having a corrective prescription at all, can cause eye strain and subsequent headaches. Even if you think you’re seeing clearly, your vision could need small adjustments. Consider these solutions:
- If it’s been over a year since your last eye exam, make an appointment to get your eyes checked. Get glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision if necessary, and follow your optometrist’s treatment plan.
- Adjust your computer height so your head is only slightly dipped while looking at it. Sit or stand straight without hunching your shoulders and be aware of your posture. This will reduce the strain you put on your neck and shoulder muscles, which can also contribute to tension headaches.
Problem #2: Your eyes are drier than the Sahara Desert
If you find that your eyes are red, itchy, irritated, or dry after a long day in front of your computer, you’re not alone. A 2018 study found that long-term computer use can increase symptoms of dry eye. Consider these solutions:
- Artificial tear eye drops like Systane can provide instant relief for dry eyes. Talk to your optometrist about artificial tear options.
- Take frequent breaks from looking at your screen. When we use the computer, we blink less often which makes our eyes drier. Daniel Porter with the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends people follow the 20-20-20 rule: He writes, “every 20 minutes look away from your screen and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to reset and replenish themselves.”
- Switch out your contact lenses for regular eyeglasses. Contacts can cause irritation or dryness, especially if they’re not replaced daily. Try wearing your stylish frames while working on the computer instead.
Problem #3: Your eyesight has become strained or blurry
Personal devices such as cell phones and laptops emit something called blue light. Devices like computers emit a glare from the blue spectrum of light. While blue light gets a bad rep, there’s some good news: studies show blue light does not cause permanent optical damage, and many experts believe it doesn’t even cause eye strain. However, anecdotal evidence suggests blue light filters may help alleviate eye strain associated with digital overuse. Consider these solutions:
- Use a matte screen filter on your laptop, which can help reduce glare.
- Sit about an arm’s length away from your computer. The American Optometric Association recommends keeping your screen 16 to 30 inches away from your face.
- If nothing else works, it may be worth trying blue light filters for your lenses. Blue light filters can be added to your eyeglass prescription for a nominal fee.
* Dr. Nelson Gould and his staff continue to take all appropriate COVID precautions to mitigate the chance of disease transmission in the office.