Every year, the second Thursday of October is observed as World Sight Day (WSD) to create awareness on vision impairment and blindness. Eyes are the most important and delicate organ of our body; therefore, it becomes imperative to protect our eyes and ensure their healthy functioning. The theme for this year is #LoveYourEyes.
Due to the pandemic, there has been various changes in the lives of the people which include increase in online classes, work from home, social networking, online meetings, and webinars. The use of electronic devices has become an indispensable part of life.
Dr. Priyanka Singh (MBBS, MS, DNB, FAICO), Director and Consultant Ophthalmologist, Neytra Eye Centre, New Delhi, says, “Total screen time is the combined hours of use of laptop, computer, TV, phones, and tablets in 24 hours. The eye disease caused by them is known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain (DES).”
People affected by them are mostly adults who have prolonged working hours and kids with increased leisure time on screen.
“The digital eye strain can be present as blurred vision for near objects, headache, eyestrain, burning sensation, foreign body sensation, itching, watering and intolerance to light,” says Dr.Vidhya. C., M.B.B.S., M.S., FPOS, FAICO, Consultant, Dept. of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Dept., Sankara Eye Hospital, Bangalore.
How it affects the eyes
Whenever we are watching the screen, our ciliary muscles of the eye are constantly working to maintain clear near vision. When this near work is prolonged, it leads to spasms followed by the fatigue of muscles leading to eye strain and focusing problems.
“Prolonged staring at screen also causes dryness of eyes and radiation-induced damage to the ocular surface. Poor surrounding lights, posture, and pre-existing refractive error also aggravate the condition,” adds Dr. Singh.
She emphasised to keep a close watch on the below Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain (DES), which includes:
- Pain and tiredness of eyes
- Foreign body sensation in eyes
- Watering & itching in eyes
- Dryness of eyes
- Blurring of vision after sometime
- Headache and neck pain
Detrimental effects of prolonged screen time
- Instability and change in power of glasses
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Sleep deprivation
- Decrease in brain development in children
- Decrease in social activities
Dr.Vidhya. C. lists below some tips to ensure balanced screen time:
- Correct screen placement: Screens should be placed at slightly below eye level.
• Screen size: It is better to use bigger screens and keep them as far from the eyes as possible. Desktop computer is highly recommended for kids instead of tablets or smartphones.
• Adjust lighting and screen brightness: This is important, as looking at the screen that is brighter than the surroundings can cause eye strain.
• The 20-20-20 rule: After 20 minutes at the computer, shift the eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds to reduce eye strain.
• Sitting posture and chair position is crucial: It is always better to be seated on a chair with a table that is appropriate for screen work.
• Try to promote outdoor activities for the children
• Keep the screen time as minimal as possible.
• Regular eye examination to rule out associated refractive errors as they can aggravate the digital eye strain.
Overall, with digital devices taking precedence in our daily life, it is crucial to balance the screen time for our healthy eyes and well-being.
Dr Priyanka Singh suggests, “Although absolute treatment is the removal of the offending factor, but these measures to some extent can decrease the impact on eyes and symptoms”.
- Restrict child screen time to maximum of 2 hours a day.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule i.e. take a break of 20 secs every 20 min and watch from 20 feet away.
- Keep the screen at least arm’s length distance
- Do not watch the screen with room lights off.
- Blink often to prevent drying of eyes
- Improve sitting and postures
- Regular eye checkups to detect refractive errors
- Take food rich in omega-3 fatty acids
In case you are suffering from DES, show it to an ophthalmologist. The eye specialist will check your refractive error, convergence, dryness, and allergy of eyes. They may prescribe lubricant and antiallergic eyedrops. In case of a severe problem, avoiding the screen for few days and supplements to relax eye muscles can be suggested.
Excessive use of screens is always damaging. Effective measures are restricting its use to maintain not only eye health but also overall well-being.
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