Know the effects of increased screen time on eye health

Without a doubt, there’s been an unprecedented leap in screen time that we’ve all committed to since the pandemic hit. Whether for educational, entertainment and leisure purposes or for work, a fully-fledged digital lifestyle increasingly defines us. Indeed, as part of this lifestyle change, working from home has become a more permanent feature of our daily routine.

Working from home comes at a cost to eye health

“But, do we realize that the increased adoption of the work-from-home routine comes at a cost in terms of eye health. As we spend more and more time on digital screens, including laptops, cellphones , tablets, e-readers and even televisions, our eyes have a disproportionately increased exposure time to these screens with far reaching adverse consequences,” said Dr. Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre, New Delhi .

Reduce your screen time. (Photo: Pexels)

Symptoms

Increased screen time and resulting eye problems can be assessed through a range of symptoms. These can take the form of “eye strain, headaches, blurred vision or double vision, dry eyes, or even neck and shoulder pain.” Sometimes it can even lead to trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating,” the expert said.

Computer Vision Syndrome, the big eye problem

He added that excessive screen time can also lead to “computer vision syndrome” or “digital eye strain”. Besides the movement of our eyes, focusing and refocusing on a computer or other digital screens requires extra effort from the eye muscles and the vision system. “If we consider screen glare, contrast and flicker, it becomes even more painful and uncomfortable for our eyes. Also, when we are engrossed in our screens, we tend to blink less, which which leads to dry eyes with related consequences. People reaching 40, in particular, need to exercise more as their natural lenses become less flexible,” he explained.

Those who wear glasses also have problems

While people with untreated or undertreated vision problems will have more problems for obvious reasons, those who wear eyewear such as glasses and contact lenses should also be just as careful. “Screen use, especially at home, is often associated with poor posture and poor home lighting. The viewer is often forced to tilt their head, not only to compound eye discomfort, but also to cause back and neck pain,” he said.

Posture and lighting should be considered when working from home. (Photo: Pexels)

What must we do ?

Of course, reducing or “adjusting” screen time is the first step to consider. Second, placing the computer or any other screen in a well-lit space should become a priority. Third, an adequate distance – preferably at arm’s length – and an appropriate viewing angle between the individual and the screen should be maintained. Fourth, use glasses and lenses that filter out blue rays and have UV protection. “Fifth and very importantly, the 20-20-20 rule must be adhered to, which means that every 20 minutes a person using a screen must look about 20 feet away for at least twenty seconds. It would give the eyes a well-deserved rest on a regular basis,” he suggested.

So while working from home and the resulting increase in screen time has many benefits, there are also downsides when it comes to our eye health. A study reports that almost 23% of India’s population had suffered from some impairment of eyesight during the increase in homestays due to the pandemic. As such, while we can’t completely get rid of our screens, we should exercise caution. Moderation is the key here.

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