- The increased screen time brought about by our current situation may cause eye problems.
- Fewer breaks away from the screen and decreased blinking may lead to eye strain.
- Try to blink as much as possible and rest your eyes if you feel them hurting.
As social distancing measures remain in place in several countries worldwide, working or staying at home has become the new normal.
Whether you’ve been spending your time binge-watching on Netflix or attending Zoom meetings, the increased screen time may cause eye problems.
In addition to this, most people have fewer breaks than usual.
“You are not getting up and walking around the office to talk to a co-worker. Even meetings are now virtual and on a screen,” ophthalmologist Benjamin Bert, MD, tells Bustle.
Neuro-ophthalmologist Howard Krauss, MD, warns that this might cause “ocular confinement syndrome — increased irritation, burning, tearing, redness, eyestrain, fatigue, and headache.”
Types of eye strain
“When we are reading or concentrating, our minds suppress our blink rate, because a blink momentarily interrupts our attention,” Dr. Krauss explains.
A reduced blinking rate may lead to dry and irritated eyes that physically hurt.
This type of eye strain causes blurry or unfocused vision after focusing on things close-up. It usually resolves by itself.
“Looking at a near target for a long period of time causes the eyes to accommodate, using muscles inside of the eyes to try and focus,” Dr. Bert explains.
This may also be caused by other vision problems such as astigmatism, farsightedness, or issues with focusing.
Factors that contribute to digital eye strain
Improper gadget use
It is best to keep the screen at an angle about 20 to 28 inches away from your eye and slightly downward. Avoid using your gadgets too close to your face.
Blue light, meanwhile, does not cause major problems for most people. But it may still slightly heighten the risk of eye issues in some people, the American Academy of Ophthalmology said in 2020. The main culprit is usually a lack of blinking.
If your eyes hurt even with less screen time, it may be stress-related — especially if your vision changes whenever you have negative thoughts and feelings.
Stress also dilates your pupils and narrows your field of vision. Even higher stress levels can impair your vision and increase your risk of eye diseases, according to a study published in EPMA Journal in 2018. High anxiety levels can also cause light sensitivity, or blurred or tunnel vision during panic attacks.
Some quick remedies
Rest your eyes if you feel them hurting.
The 20-20-20 rule is well-recommended by ophthalmologists. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen to something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Dr. Bert advises to completely close your eyes for one to two seconds during these breaks. You will know that your eyes are dry if they start to burn or feel irritated while closed.
You can also try to blink as much as possible, use eye drops, or add screen filters to your gadgets to reduce glare.
If there’s still no improvement, take a break from screens until your eyes are completely rested.