Digital devices like computers, tablets and mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives. Right from doing our work, reading news, watching our favourite shows and chatting with people, computers have pervaded every part of our life. Some of us spend more than 40 hours a week on these devices. So, naturally most people are worried and want to know how soon they can get back to the normal usage of computers and other devices. I think before answering this question it is very important to understand the effect that these devices have on our eyes in general.
Computer and its effect on eyes
It’s not exactly a specific problem but a range of issues varying from eye strain to dryness to pain. Research shows that between 50% and 90% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some symptoms.
Eyestrain usually happens due to prolonged work and is a type of repetitive strain injury that is caused by insufficient rest periods, incorrect working conditions. Glare is also one of the common causes of eye strain. Glare often results from computer screens being too dark or too bright. Glare leads to eye muscle fatigue, for the eyes have to struggle to make out the images on the screen. Another major cause of eyestrain is the position of the computer screen. Naturally, the eyes are positioned so that they look straight ahead and slightly down. If the eyes have to look in a different direction, the muscles have to continually work to hold this position. Thus, if your computer monitor is positioned incorrectly, the eye muscles must constantly work to hold the eyes in the correct position to view the monitor.
Dryness- people blink roughly half as often when using a computer screen than they do normally throughout the day. This prevents the eyes from getting proper lubrication. Besides insufficient blinking use of air conditioning in most offices creates an atmosphere of low humidity and this also adds to the eye dryness.
Computer use after Lasik
The recovery period of any eye surgery is important. It is critical that eyes don’t get strained or dry during this recovery period. In most cases use of digital devices is restricted for 24 hours after Lasik. Thereafter most people are advised to slowly increase the duration of computer usage over the first 2-3 weeks. This restriction applies to other screens as well.
Tips for using computer after Lasik
There are some basic precautions that can be observed to minimise the ill effects of computers especially after Lasik.
- Use of artificial tears- Most people are prescribed artificial tears after Lasik for a period of 2-3 months. In case of computer users this becomes even more important. It is better to keep them near your work station and use them frequently to prevent eye dryness.
- Blink regularly- Make a conscious effort to blink more. Infrequent blinking can increase dryness and eye fatigue. A sticky note on the computer can be a constant reminder for that.
- 20-20-20 rule: This rule is very important rule not just in the immediate post Lasik period but for the rest of our lives. One should look 20 feet away (six metres) for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This gives our eye muscles a break and help increase the rate of blinking.
- Distance between one’s eyes and the monitor should be adequate. Keep the distance of the monitor from your eyes between 40 and 76 centimetres (16 to 30 inches). Most people find 50 to 65 centimetres (20 to 26 inches) comfortable.
- Make sure that the top of the monitor is at a level at or slightly below your horizontal eye level. Tilt the top of the monitor away from you at a 10- to 20-degree angle. This will enable you to create an optimum viewing angle.
- Comfortable work station- Body posture during computer work should be proper. Use an adjustable chair that enables you to sit at a proper angle and distance from your computer monitor screen.
Remember that these tips apply to all electronic screens, not just a computer. By following these tips, patients can keep the eyes healthy and well lubricated while preserving the effects of LASIK surgery.