Especially for those who grew up with smartphones, it’s easy to imagine that it’s natural to sit in front of a backlit LED screen all day. A friendly reminder: it isn’t! The human body was not built for this, and unfortunately neither was our technology. (Computers are evolved to work well and look cool, don’t prevent headaches and back pain. I don’t make rules – take on the mind of Steve Jobs!) Eye strain, like UV rays or not stretching, feels abstract because the problems it causes don’t appear until years after the damage. But after a long day at work, my eyeballs feel more like cotton balls. Likewise? For this reason I have chosen Dr. Craig Moskowitz, a Manhattan-based ophthalmologist, called with a very specific and broadly worded query: Does technology damn my eyesight?
It turns out the answer is a disturbing yes. “People stare at a computer screen an average of six hours a day, an increase of 50 percent over previous years,” said Dr. Moskowitz. He willingly cited studies that illustrate how myopia increases with computer use rather than going outside – two habits you may have learned at work from home during a global pandemic. And if that’s not enough, there is anecdotal evidence as well. “I’ve never had so many inquiries from healthy young people with new optical problems,” added Dr. Moskowitz added, who stated that in the past year, more patients complained of blurring, redness or headaches in his practice.
God knows we are all looking for positive news, so here it is: The Good Doctor is a wealth of information and has kindly shared his best tips for preventing eye strain. Let’s start at the beginning.
My eyeballs are burning!
That sounds uncomfortable. Let’s get more specific.
Why are my eyes so dry all the time?
It has to do with the way we work. When your eyes are relaxed (say, you’re staring straight ahead or having a conversation with a friend), you can blink up to 22 times per minute. However, when your brain is focused on one task, take 56 to 72 percent fewer blinkers. “You don’t blink that often during work hours and when you don’t blink your eyes get dry,” explained Dr. Moskowitz. The dryness is exacerbated by contact lenses, which Dr. Moskowitz was increasingly reliant during the COVID pandemic. “If you wear glasses with a mask, they will fog up. And people who take a lot of Zoom calls haven’t worn glasses either. ”
I have a headache too.
“Usually your eyes are looking at things that are different distances from you,” said Dr. Moskowitz. “But if you’re just staring at your computer, you’re mostly focusing on something eighteen inches away.” Another factor? To work from home. Without your employees sitting in front of you or at a large table in a conference room, your eyes have fewer reasons to look beyond your laptop.
I’ve heard a lot about blue light? Does that play a role?
It sure does. While Dr. Moskowitz emphasized that blue light does not affect your retina or cause permanent damage, it can cause eye strain and headaches.
Is there anything i can do?
Yup! Not only are there proven measures out there to combat the temporary side effects of eye strain, but they are absolutely critical to protecting your eyesight over the long term.
First of all, Dr. Moskowitz that if you can do without contact lenses, then you should. Eye drops or artificial tears can help soothe dry eyes, which will prevent redness and irritation from worsening. It’s also important to take regular breaks to look at your screen. “Follow the 20-20-20 rule and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes that you sit in front of your computer,” he advised.
Many computers are equipped with night vision settings to help maintain your circadian rhythm (prolonged exposure to blue light can make it difficult to fall asleep at night) by replacing blue light with a faint orange glow. This is a free and easy way to reduce the stress associated with constant blue light exposure. There is one problem, however. Although your eyes will no longer focus on blue light, they may have to work harder to read on a darker screen. For a little more money, you can invest in blue light glasses. These are fitted with special, non-prescription lenses that filter out wavelengths of blue light before they reach your eyes. “These are pretty effective,” said Dr. Moskowitz, “but like everything, it depends where you buy them.” The brand he recommends in his practice is Pixel.
What if it’s too late
My vision is already impaired!
You can keep following the advice above to keep your eyesight from deteriorating further. For a more permanent solution, you might consider a laser vision correction procedure.
The one you’ve probably heard of is Lasik. However, many ophthalmologists consider Lasik to be out of date because it is an invasive procedure that involves making small incisions. “Your cornea is full of nerves that you know because when you have a stain of something in your eyes, you really feel it,” said Dr. Moskovitz. These nerves not only alert you to a stray eyelash or a piece of dust, but also let your brain know when your eyeballs could use a refreshing splash of moisture. “When Lasik surgery is done, some nerves are cut and they don’t grow back.” Since you have fewer nerves, you won’t blink as hard, which, as mentioned earlier, leads to dry eyes. And of course, looking at the computer makes the drought even worse. “People who have had Lasik in the past are probably doing even worse now,” added Dr. Moskowitz added. We are sorry!
A better alternative is a vision correction procedure called ASA, or advanced surface ablation. “The technology used to correct myopia is the same,” says Dr. Moskowitz, “but no incision is required and less tissue is involved.” This means that if you have a high prescription that previously contraindicated you for Lasik, you may be a candidate for ASA. You are not a good candidate if your cornea is thin, a rare condition that can be determined by your doctor. And the laser still can’t treat farsightedness, a condition where you can see well from a distance but things look blurry up close. Dr. However, Moskowitz considered: “In the world in which we live, farsightedness is much rarer than myopia.”
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Photo via ITG