The year 2020 has brought about many changes to our lives. We wear masks everywhere we go. We can never get enough hand sanitizer. We stand six feet away from everyone else in a public setting. However, one of the biggest changes may be at home - a place where we are doing more and more of our learning and work.
While working and learning from home find their obvious advantages in limiting exposure and the possible spread of COVID-19, they also present a host of challenges. The lack of collaboration and camaraderie, challenges of staying focused, need for extra childcare and cabin fever are just a few challenges.
But what about your eyes?
Ever since Work From Home (WFH) began for many individuals in the Bay Area, I have seen an uptick in patients presenting with complaints of headaches, eye strain, eye fatigue and eye irritation. Many patients have expressed that they have not felt these symptoms until they began working from home. The recent eye fatigue epidemic is not just limited to working class adults though! Many students have presented with similar complaints.
So whether you want to call it "Work from Home Syndrome," "Zoom-itis," or "Virtual Learning Pains" - our eyes are definitely being affected by higher amounts of screen time in a constant environment!
Now the questions that everyone is asking: how do I get my eyes to feel better?
Here are a few tips to make sure you are seeing your best and achieving the best eye health possible while at home on the screen:
Ensure optimal ergonomic posture
When sitting at your desk, you should sit up straight without slouching. Your line of site should be level with the top of the monitor.
The monitor should sit roughly 2 feet or further away from your eyes. If you use a standing desk, all these parameters should remain the same with the exception of standing up straight versus sitting down.
In addition to positioning, also make sure you have a comfortable, supportive chair if sitting, as well as a supportive and correctly sized desk.
Utilize the 20-20-20 Rule
The 20-20-20 rule is a common piece of advice from eye doctors to patients that are frequently on the computer. The rule is simple: every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet away.
Accommodation is the process of the lens inside our eye changing shape and occurs whenever we look at a close object, such as a book, screen or phone. When we look at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time, our eyes become locked in accommodation. Being locked in accommodation for a long period of time can lead to asthenopia or eyestrain, because the muscles working to change the shape of the lens inside the eye begin to fatigue.
By looking far away for a period of time, the eye has a chance to recover and reset from the prolonged strain it has been put through.
Hydrate the Eyes
When you work on a computer screen, statistically, you blink about half as often as you normally do. The process of blinking is directly responsible for spreading the tear film over the eye. Therefore, if you are not blinking as much, you tend to not form a proper tear film, which can in turn lead to dry eyes. Often the symptoms of computer related dry eye include a burning, gritty or uncomfortable sensation in the eyes.
Remedying computer screen related dry eye can be done in many ways. Make sure you are hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Additionally, over-the-counter artificial tears can help hydrate the eye. Ensure that you purchase artificial tears rather than redness relievers, as artificial tears help hydrate the eye while redness relievers merely remove the signs of redness in the eyes. If you plan on using artificial tears frequently, consider preservative-free tears.
My common recommendation for patients on the computer all the time is to place a drop in each eye before computer use and leave the artificial tear vial/bottle by the screen. Place a drop in the eye whenever any signs of dryness begin to creep up. If dryness continues to bother you despite using artificial tears, book an eye exam appointment. There are some advanced dry eye treatments that can be prescribed in the office.
Consider computer glasses
Even if you do not wear prescription glasses or contacts at the moment, a pair of computer glasses can greatly help your comfort and vision while on a computer screen. There are three specific ways that computer glasses can provide ease of use while logging prolonged screen time:
- Prescription Lenses
A computer glasses prescription, even if small, can help with focusing and preventing eye fatigue while on the screen. Additional benefits from computer glasses prescriptions include helping both eyes work together and correcting defocus.
- Blue Light blocking technology
Blue light is emitted from nearly every screen and device we have.
Blue light’s location on the color spectrum causes the eye to have focus slightly differently on blue light versus all other light colors. This creates a constant micro-fluctuation of focus as a screen emitting blue light will cause the eye to focus on both the blue light and the other colored lights.
Prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to eye fatigue and may even affect the circadian rhythm (sleep cycle). Blue light can be blocked or filtered out by a blue light blocking coating which is applied to computer glass lenses.
- Anti-reflective coating
Anti-reflective coatings on lenses help individuals work on the computer by eliminating low angle glare. This can help create extra comfort by eliminating bothersome glare from screens or other reflective objects in the works space.
In conclusion, working from home and learning from home have presented many new challenges for our day to day lives. However, strained and fatigued eyes do not have to be lumped into that set of new challenges! Incorporate our tips above and schedule an eye exam today to make sure your eyes are ready to take on the new type of work day.
Call us to schedule your appointment: (650) 948-3700
-Dr. Aaron Neufeld
Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.
To contact him with questions or make an appointment call: (650) 948-3700 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org