For many families, learning from home has been one of the toughest challenges of the COVID-19 lockdowns. But one aspect of home schooling that is often overlooked is the potential impact it can have on eye health. With many lessons now taking place online, those hours spent on Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls are racking up, with screentime on digital devices going through the roof.
What is that doing to our vision and how can we reduce the potential for eye strain?
More time in front of screens, whether for college or for fun and connection, can result in eye strain, fatigue and headaches, but there are a few simple ways you can
protect your eyes during a time when screens are a bigger part of everyday life.
We’re delighted to share this guest blog from the award-winning Tompkins Knight & Son Optometrists, based in Kingsley Road, Northampton – sharing their
top tips for keeping your eyes healthy during lockdown.
Keep a safe distance from devices
Historically, a typical reading distance was about 40cm but, with the advent of tablets and smartphones, we are now seeing that reduced to between 25cm and 30cm.
At this distance, the eyes turn in to focus on the screen, as opposed to being relaxed and in the straight-ahead position when looking at something further away. After a while, this can lead to fatigue of the eye muscles, which can cause headaches or other vision problems.
While research doesn’t yet evidence an indisputable link between screen usage and myopia in young people, the condition is on the rise. One in four parents had a child with myopia in 2018, an increase of 25 per cent from just 40 years ago.
If left untreated, myopia can lead to a higher propensity for developing serious eye diseases later in life, including myopic macular degeneration, retinal detachment, cataracts and glaucoma.
By keeping digital devices about two feet away and at eye level or slightly below, it’s possible to limit eye strain.
Take regular breaks
The 20/20/20 Rule is a good guide to follow. Every 20 minutes you need to look up at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives eyes a break and a return to their natural position.
Another emerging school of thought is ‘30/30/Out’ – which suggests 30 minutes of screentime at 30cm before heading outside for 30 minutes.
Taking regular screen breaks is likely to be more effective than depending on gadgets such as blue-light-blocking glasses which claim to reduce eye strain and fatigue. If you’re going to invest in anything, buy a good quality pair of sunglasses to wear outdoors, protecting your eyes against the effects of prolonged ultraviolet light exposure from the sun.
Watch for signs of vision issues
Headaches, excessive blinking, eye rubbing, and feeling tired or cranky are potential warning signs that you are having vision trouble. Avoiding glare can be helpful
— adjust the screen brightness down for indoor usage and try not to use digital devices outdoors.
Dry eye disease is another consideration when it comes to eye health. When people read, particularly on digital devices, blink rates can be significantly reduced which
can lead to dry eyes. Pay attention to this and make sure you are blinking regularly when looking at a screen. A good exercise to follow is to occasionally blink 30 times in succession before closing your eyes completely for 30 seconds.
Don’t skip eye examinations
Eye examinations are essential to identifying potential issues with your eyesight and you shouldn’t be put off just because of the pandemic. We have introduced a
range of guidelines and safety protocols for seeing patients safely and can even do appointments remotely if you would prefer not to travel.
For more information on eye health in young people visit https://www.tks-optometrists.co.uk/children-teenagers-eyecare/