Working from home this time around – whether it’s been a blessing or a curse for you – comes with its own challenges. As our world has gotten significantly smaller these last few months, being reduced to 5km and confined to our screens at home, our visual demands have also changed significantly.
While screens have certainly been in our lives for the last few years, the amount of time that we spend on them is unprecedented. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by Zoom meetings and conference calls. Lunch breaks are spent catching up on emails or browsing online. The lack of commuting and social events means even more time to spend on Netflix.
With this new normal, you may have developed blurriness, fatigue, or pressure around the eyes, especially at your device screens. Your eyes may also feel irritable and scratchy, particularly at the end of the day and you think to yourself, “My eyes just aren’t what they used to be.”
Digital eye strain is a real condition that describes that discomfort after focusing on a near or middle-distance screen without a break. This discomfort is because our visual system is primarily developed for long distances. By doing so much work up close, our eyes struggle to keep up and this is perceived as strain, discomfort, or fatigue.
While there’s no magic cure for digital eye strain, there are certain things that help:
1. The 20/20/20 rule recommends taking 20-second breaks from all screens, every 20 minutes by focusing on something 20 metres away.
2. Ensure that any uncorrected prescriptions or muscle imbalances are corrected by your optometrist.
3. Blink regularly or lubricate your eyes with artificial tears as we tend to blink less as we stare at something, causing sensations of dryness or grittiness.
4. Make sure that your devices aren’t excessively close, as this requires your eyes to focus even harder.
COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in many ways but you can make life at home a little more comfortable by simply being aware of the symptoms and causes and seeking help when needed.