Lockdown has brought about many dramatic changes in our daily lifestyle. The computer and other electronic gadgets have become indispensable for work, education and entertainment purposes. There is no doubt that these technological devices have aided the society during these difficult times; however, it does give rise to various health-related problems. Eye related issues have emerged as a major problem during this pandemic due to the increased usage of these gadgets. Not only working adults, even children are prone to develop these problems due to prolonged use of tablets and gaming devices. Here we have discussed digital eye strain and some useful tips to prevent it.

Digital Eye Strain - An Emerging Public Health Threat

What Is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain also known as Computer Vision Syndrome describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet and smartphone usage.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision

Important Factors Contributing to Digital Eye Strain:

  • Uncorrected spectacle power
  • Decreased blinking due to prolonged staring at the computer screen
  • Strain on eye muscles due to nature of work
  • Pre-existing dry eyes
  • Poor lighting and imbalance of light between the computer screen and surroundings
  • Glare from the monitor and surroundings
  • Stress

Tips to Protect the Eyes from Digital Eye Strain:

  • Hydration Is Important

    Drink lots of water and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Have a Colourful Diet:

    Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, spinach, etc.
  • Check Your Eye Power: Make sure your spectacle power is checked and your eyeglass prescription is up-to-date.
  • Follow 20-20-20 Rule:

    Take appropriate breaks. Do not stare at the screen continuously. Follow this internationally recommended 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. This will relax the eye muscles and reduce the eye strain caused by looking at digital screens for too long.
  • Blink Often:

    When we are focussed on our work, we tend to stare at the screen for prolonged periods of time. As a result, we forget to blink and this causes dryness. Hence, it is important to blink frequently as it helps in the redistribution of tear film.
  • Proper Posture: It is recommended to sit 20-25 inches away from the system, with the eyes 4-6 inches above the middle of the screen. In simpler terms, it means that you will be looking down on the monitor.
  • Proper Light:

    Work in ambient lighting and do not work in the dark. Adjust the screen brightness and contrast to provide balance between room lighting and clear visibility. Screen filters can be used to reduce the glare from the monitors.
  • Text Size Matters:

    Increase the size of the text when possible to reduce the strain on your eyes.
  • Give a Break to Contact Lens:<

    If you work with the digital screen for a prolonged period wearing contact lenses, you may feel your eyes to be dry. A useful tip to prevent it is to give a break to contact lenses and wear glasses instead.
  • Lubricate Your Eyes:

    If your eyes feel dry, after consultation with an ophthalmologist, you can use preservative free lubricating eye drops to decrease the symptoms of dry eyes.
  • Use Computer Vision Glasses if Needed:

    These glasses have prescription measured at the computer working distance with an anti-reflective coating. Although, this is beneficial to many people, one important point to note is that these glasses do not solve all the problems faced by the eyes due to computer usage.

    If the symptoms still persist, consult your ophthalmologist and get yourself evaluated.

    To conclude, digital eye strain is emerging as a public health problem and with proper awareness and professional guidance, we can learn to adjust to the new normal with minimal ill-effects on the eyes. Proper self-eye care and modification of working environment plays a key role in the prevention.
Dr. Divya Janakiraman

Dr. Divya Janakiraman
Consultant Ophthalmologist and Cataract Surgeon
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai

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