Millions of people around the world are spending too much time in front of screens, now more than ever.
Millions of people around the world are spending too much time in front of screens, now more than ever. And all due to the pandemic.
Many of those who work or study from home look at their computers and other devices throughout the day.
Because of this, experts warn that new ways of working are taking their toll on us.
Itching, blurred vision, headaches, or eyestrain are among the most common problems.
More than a third (38%) of those who responded to a survey conducted for the Fight for Sight charity said their eyesight had worsened since the start of the pandemic. Another survey put the figure at 22%.
Experts say that people with persistent problems should visit an ophthalmologist. But there are things many of us can do to keep our eyes healthy.
- The 20-20-20 rule
“Relaxing the muscles in and around the eyes is critical,” says Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, clinical advisor to the UK College of Optometrists.
It is simple to do. Every 20 minutes, just look at something at least 20 feet away, which is about twenty feet, for 20 seconds.
“This keeps your eye muscles from overworking,” Hardiman-McCartney says.
Teleworking, its negative effect due to overexposure to screens
Traveling to work or walking home from school gave people time to relax their eyes without even realizing it. Now, for many people, that has also changed.
When we focus on a nearby object like a screen, the tiny muscles inside the eyes – the ciliary muscles – contract. The contraction changes the shape of the lenses inside the eyes, focusing the image on the retina.
Those little muscles, and others around the eye sockets that keep you looking in the same direction, need a break.
“It’s like running,” says Hardiman-McCartney. “You wouldn’t jog all day and all night, and you would expect your muscles to recover, but that’s what people ask of their eyes.”
- Think by blinking
“Blinking is really important,” says Professor Sunir Garg of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“The eyelids work like a windshield wiper.”
They remove dust and dirt and wash the surface of the eye with tear fluid.
Blinking also clears stagnant fluid and sharpens vision by keeping the cornea or surface layer of the eye moist.
“Without that moisture, the cornea dries up and vision becomes blurry,” says Professor Garg.
The problem is that we blink less frequently when reading on a screen, according to many studies.
Health habits and decisions that can affect vision, even if it doesn’t seem like it
Some researchers also suggest that most of our blinks are incomplete when we use a screen, and that the upper and lower lids do not touch completely.
That can leave your eyes itchy, dry, and prone to infection.
So stop working on the screen every now and then and close your eyes completely.
- Adjust your screen
Experts say that the screen should be at arm’s length or 40 to 75 centimeters from your face.
Achieving the correct distance is particularly tricky with laptops that are often too close to the user’s eyes.
If the screen is too close, you run the risk of continually overloading your eye muscles, explains Professor Shahina Pardhan of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.
If you are too far away, you will have a hard time seeing the small details.
“Use an external keyboard to help you if you can,” she suggests.
An extra monitor can also help.
The impact of bad habits on visual health
Professor Pardhan advises positioning the screen so that it is sideways or with its back to the window. That way, you can minimize the reflection of sunlight on the screen.
The height of the screen position is also worth thinking about, according to Badrul Hussain, a consulting surgeon at UK Moorfields Eye Hospital.
“Computer screens should be placed at or slightly below eye level,” he says. The action of “looking at a screen can cause fatigue and dry eye.”
Looking too high or too low can also cause shoulder and neck problems.
- Larger print
“People should really think about adjusting the font size,” says Professor Pardhan.
“It is not a good idea to work on a smartphone or tablet for long periods because the text is too small,” she details.
However, there is no one ideal size that fits all people, she says.