Abraham was experiencing an increasing discomfort in and around his eyes. Initially he was experiencing this eye discomfort at the end of the day. Gradually the duration, intensity and the episodes of eye discomfort became more pronounced. It started interfering with his work and he found it increasingly difficult to work and was often lagging on his deliverables. That is when he decided to contact me and consulted me through a tele consult. He is just 32 years old and never needed glasses and had a wonderful eyesight. And this was one of the reasons that he was surprised why of all the people he was having such a bad eye discomfort. On being asked to give a detailed account of his eye discomfort, he mentioned that he experiences eye pain, his eyes turn red, his head hurts and often he is unable to maintain focus on his screen and his vision turns blurred. In the second half of his workday he needed to take frequent breaks to reduce the discomfort. He was quite distraught by the eye problems that he was facing. He was an overachiever and hated to be lagging on his work due to his eyes.
I am sure a lot of us can relate to this story. Abraham is not alone. These days most of the patients who consult me are having similar eye issues. Due to the lock-down and work from home scenario, the distinction between workday and leisure day has blurred. Most people are working more than 10-12 hours a day given that they are saving time not travelling. And to add to this, even the entertainment involves use of additional gadgets. So really, on an average most people are interacting with some or the other screen for more than 12-15 hours a day.
Let’s try to understand what happens to our eyes when we are glued to laptops, mobiles, and tablets for long hours.
Our Eyes develop what is called “Digital Eye Strain”
We experience one or all of the following symptoms
- Eye pain
- Irritable eye
- Pain around eyes
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty to focus on a near object
- Difficulty in changing focus from one object to another at a different distance
- Grittiness/ foreign body sensation
- Dryness in the eye
Eye discomfort is severe especially if the engagement with screens is without proper consistent breaks
Even Anti-glare glasses are of no use
Lubricating eye drops give temporary relief
Break from digital tools reduce the intensity of the eye symptoms temporarily
I have heard these things so many times that I feel that my response to such problems is sort of narrated.
Let us be honest- we all need to have a life beyond the gadgets. I know that many of you must be thinking, if not gadgets then what? Given the lockdown we cannot freely step out and indulge in other social activities. I get it and understand that the current situation is not necessarily the best time to reduce the use of gadgets.
So truly, what is the solution to all these eye problems?
- Reduce the amount of uninterrupted time with these screens- Take a short break after every 15-20 minutes.
- Blink frequently- normally a person blinks 12-14 times per minute and this drops to 4-5 times when we are using gadgets. So, this means we need to consciously blink.
- Adopt a proper posture while you are using these gadgets. Do not lie down or sit on a bed while you are working on your laptop or mobile
- Ensure that you are wearing your prescription eyeglasses if you have any while you are working on these gadgets
- Do not use excessive air conditioning and do not keep the temperature too low- Air conditioning use reduces the atmospheric humidity and that can enhance the eye dryness
- Drink enough water
- Use lubricating eye drops depending on your eye symptoms
- You can use anti-glare glasses if your laptop/desktop already does not have an inbuilt glare protection. Blue light blocking glasses do not have much role here
- Manage the contrast on your screen and the lightning conditions around you. Screen contrast should be just optimal. The light around you should not directly fall on your face or on the screen that you are using.
- Keep a strict division of your workday and personal time and wind up your work by the decided time.
- Rather than messaging your friends, call them up and have a conversation. That will be good for not just your relationship but will also reduce your screen time
- Find alternative means of entertainment such as cards or board games with your family
- Wear your masks and go out for walks in open spaces (Avoid any crowded places while walking)
- Eat healthy nutritious food and sleep well
- If none of this works then pay a visit to your eye doctor to rule out other eye diseases
To be honest, it is all about managing our lifestyle and leading a healthy well-balanced life. It is to a large extent in our own control. Let us all be more deliberate about what we do and how that may be impacting our eyes and overall health!