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Screen fatigue SOS: How to protect your eyes

Screen time rocketed in the last year? Your eyes will be feeling it. Optician Lucinda Howard of Arthur Hayes Opticians explains what screen fatigue is, how to beat it, and why we all need to blink more.

With our new normal looking like a day of Zoom meetings interspersed with regular breaks to scroll through Insta, followed by an online workout then settling in for a night in front of the TV, our screen time has rocketed in the last 12 months. And let’s face it, most of us were guilty of spending hours glued to some form of device even before Covid came along.

Eye fatigue, or to give it its proper term asthenopia, is prevalent in our increasingly digital society. Focusing on screens, especially smaller screens like the ones our bffs, our phones, can result in eye muscles straining as they try to focus. The reality is we’ll all spend more time on screens in the future so more of us will experience eye fatigue.

Eye fatigue can leave eyes feeling dry. You may well experience more headaches/migraines caused by the eye-straining, and some can also notice blurred vision. Other effects of increased screen time can include difficulty reading, poorer night vision and migraines.

Certainly, in clinic I am seeing an increased number of patients attending daily mentioning eye strain, frontal headaches, tired eyes generally and dryness. Not to mention “mask eye”.

Wearing a mask is essential for most at present but mask eye occurs when exhaled breath escapes from the top of the mask and dries out the cornea, the front surface of the eye. The exhaled breath exacerbates dry eye but as this is a new condition there is very little hard research on this but anecdotally I, and fellow colleagues, are seeing this in practice frequently.

Worried about your eyes? Here’s how to look after them

  1. Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break from your screen for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away.
  2. Remember to blink! This helps to moisten the eyes. When we look at screens, or concentrate in general, our blinking reduces and this can dry them out and irritate them.
  3. If you wear glasses or contacts, look into lens coatings and designs that minimise digital fatigue.
  4. For ‘mask eye’ make sure your mask fits snugly and air escapes through the side or a vent rather than at the top of the mask.
  5. Have regular eye checks. If your job involves a lot of time at a computer your employer may well contribute towards the cost so do check with them. Arthur Hayes Opticians has branches in Crowborough and East Grinstead and you can book your checkup here.

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