Easy on the eyes: Increased screen-time leads to eye strain in the era of COVID-19

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For many, a year spent in the midst of a pandemic has resulted in an increase of screen time. Whether this is the result of remote working, substitution of Zoom meetings or simply more time in front of a TV or computer as opportunities for recreation dwindled, the average person might have noticed an increase in eye strain over the last year.

Dr. Ryan Haiar, an optometrist with Eye Site, says that this eye strain can manifest in the form of eye fatigue, tired eyes and headaches in the frontal region of the head.

Haiar says there are warning signs for these conditions. “Eye strain can show up in a variety of different ways,” he says. “Dull achy sensation, fluctuating in vision, where sometimes things seem clear — go in and out of focus, and then when you look up, far away things are out of focus and it takes a long time to let those eye muscles relax to get better clarity in the distance.”

Haiar says he has definitely seen an increase of such complaints over the past year. He attributes this to people spending more hours on the computer, and having to focus more on digital devices in order to do their jobs.

While eye strain is increasing in prevalence, Haiar tells us that there are ways to help minimize it. “The biggest thing is just taking breaks,” he says. “They have what’s called the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break looking 20 feet away.”

Haiar says prolonged eye strain can make it harder to maintain focus, which could affect your daily life.

Aside from eye strain, Haiar says another pandemic related malady he is seeing is more cases of dry eyes. “When you are staring at a computer screen, we tend not to blink as much as we normally do, and so the eyes — you get evaporation of your tears and then that relates to more dry eye symptoms.”

The final question we asked Haiar is one that’s been on the mind of just about every bespectacled mask wearer these last several months: Is there a way to prevent lens fogging?

“Finding a mask that has a good seal, or trying to get one that has a foam gasket in it can help. There’s a lot of things that some retailers are selling that can help. It’s like a gel coating you can put on the lenses, or these no fog clothes that you can use to wipe your lens with.”

In terms of eye health, Haiar focused on prevention. “I think the biggest thing is just taking the visual breaks. As the pandemic is ending, trying to get outside more, reduce your time in front of the screens and just try to relax those muscles a little bit more.”

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