People in the eye care industry have often mused about how the year 2020 would present a multitude of marketing and awareness opportunities. In fact, 2020 was declared “The Year of Eye” by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, as they sought to inspire people to take better care of their eyes.
Little did they know the impact 2020 would ultimately have on our eyes as most of us transitioned to staring at screens for work, school, recreation and family communications due to the quarantine required by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though our screens were prevalent in our daily lives prior to the coronavirus hitting America in early 2020, as time went on, our screen time connections became essential for school, social connections and, in many cases, staying employed. In addition, many of our medical appointments transitioned to telehealth to reduce potential exposure. Other events like annual meetings, fundraising activities, seminars and tax appointments quickly pivoted and were accomplished virtually.
All of this screen time, while often productive and safe, eventually takes its toll on our eyes. You may have an app set up on your smartphone to track screen time and be shocked each week by the report. According to Nielsen research from March 2020, the average U.S. adult was spending more than 13 hours per day interacting with screens. It’s no wonder that 70 to 90 percent of heavy computer or screen users experience symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
According to Dr. Chad Overman, director of vision benefits for DeltaVision by Delta Dental of Iowa, our screen heavy life could be causing a variety of vision and ergonomic issues.
“Computer vision syndrome is more than problems like blurred or double vision, itchy, dry or red eyes, it can also lead to chronic headaches, neck pain or back pain caused from hunching over our screens. Not only are these issues harmful to our long-term vision health, but they can also negatively impact our overall health.”
While we cannot completely quit our screens for obvious reasons, there are some practical suggestions you can try for yourself, suggest to your family and share with your employees and coworkers.
Here are five tips to ensure you’re protecting your eyes as much as possible from screen strain as suggested by Dr. Overman and general online sources such as WebMD and All About Vision. Taking breaks, adjusting your workstation settings and paying more attention to your eyes are all tactics that can help prevent eyestrain.
- Practice 20-20-20: This tip helps your eyes, your spine and your mind. Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. Stand up, stretch, and work in a 20-second plank while you’re at it!
- Adjust your monitor: Ensure your screen is at least 20-30 inches away from your face and that your eyes are level with the very top of your monitor
- Color-correct your screen settings: Black text on white or a slightly yellow background reduces strain on your eyes. You can make these adjustments in your computer settings. If your office lights are bright, a cool or bluer color setting is best.
- Switch it up: If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing your regular glasses one to two times per week to give your eyes a break.
- Blink. Blink: When you’re staring at screens, you tend to zone out and the rate of your blinking slows down to 12-14 blinks per minute instead of the average rate of 17. This causes your eyes to lose moisture and causes additional strain. Purposely take blinking breaks. You may also consider using artificial tears to moisturize your eyes.
“While following these tips are a great way to protect your eyes from screen strain, there is nothing better than regular visits with your eye doctor,” said Dr. Overman. “Use your employer’s vision benefits to your advantage with annual exams with your eye doctor. Through your exam, your eye doctor will help you determine if you need corrective lenses or a new prescription, if you have symptoms of eye strain or if your eyes are showing signs of any other issues.”
While 2020 may have not turned out the way we planned, we do have control of many aspects of our eye health. Follow these strategies to give your eyes a break and set up your annual eye exam to monitor any changes. Your eye doctor has COVID-19 protocols in place for your protection and theirs.
For more information, visit deltadentalia.com/vision.
Dr. Chad Overman is director of vision benefits of Delta Dental of Iowa.