Looking at screens all the time?

Too much screen time has shown to affect sleep, has strong links to obesity and other issues, but it can also have a big effect on what you use to do that staring — your eyes.

“For many reasons, cutting down on screen time is challenging for most, especially with so many working remotely and spending more time than ever before in front of computer screens, mobile phones and television monitors,” says Dr. Shelby Helmeid, an optometrist at Aurora Health Center in Hartford, WI. “But even taking some small steps can do a world of good for your eye health and eyesight.”

In a world already filled with screens and screen time, COVID-19 has meant even more hours in front of computers, televisions and smart phones for many people across all ages.

It is important to note, she says, that computer overuse generally will not permanently damage the eyes. Instead, it can cause eyestrain – a common but uncomfortable condition that can cause:

  • Eye soreness, tiredness and dryness
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Reduced attention span and problems concentrating
  • Blurred or double vision

While we can’t divorce our lives from screens entirely, Dr. Helmeid recommends these self-care tips to help manage and possibly eliminate symptoms:

  • Take breaks: This is one of the most straightforward and effective solutions. To help ease eyestrain, a good rule of thumb is to use the popular “20/20/20” exercise. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away from you.
  • Keep proper posture: Proper desk ergonomics isn’t just for your spine, wrists and hips. Your screen should be upwards of two to three feet away from your eyes as well as at eye level to reduce the amount of work your eyes must do to read what’s on it.
  • Reduce screen glare: Another consideration for your office or entertainment set-up is cutting down glare from the sun or other bright lights. While it’s not as powerful as staring straight at the source, it can still cause problems for your eyes if you stare too long at a bright reflection.
  • Don’t forget to blink: When the human brain focuses on something, our eyes tend to blink less and more quickly than usual when focusing on something. That leads to further strain and dryness. Be sure to incorporate some slow blinks as you work.
  • Consider enlarging your type: Looking at larger type can help people of all ages who spend a lot of time reading.
  • Consider special glasses for older people: For some, optometrists can prescribe special glasses specifically for computer use. Ask your optometrist if they are right for you.

If these self-care tips don’t relive your eyestrain symptoms, Dr. Helmeid recommends a visit your doctor.

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