Extra screen time causing a rise in eye strain

The extra hours working on a laptop, chatting on social media, or bingeing Netflix during the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our eyes, says Katoomba optometrist Kenneth Poon.

Specsavers Katoomba optometrist Kenneth Poon checks colleague Rachel Boylan's eyes. He says eye checks are important as people have been spending a lot more time in front of screens during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to eye strain.

Specsavers Katoomba optometrist Kenneth Poon checks colleague Rachel Boylan's eyes. He says eye checks are important as people have been spending a lot more time in front of screens during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to eye strain.

He's urging people to book an eye check, after noticing a deterioration in people's eyesight during the lockdown.

Mr Poon has been seeing a lot of students aged between 10 and 13 for eye checks at Specsavers in Katoomba, who have never needed glasses before.

"That age group are using a lot of iPad, phone and social media; a lot of digital media," he said.

Complaining about headaches and light sensitivity, their parents have sent them for eye checks.

Adults who have been spending long hours working from home on their laptops and staring at screens during Zoom meetings have also been coming in for eye checks.

Then there's down time, where instead of doing an exercise class or going to the gym or catching up with friends, people have been bingeing Netflix or spending hours talking on Facebook with friends.

"If you're going from remote working or studying to a Zoom hangout with friends or family, to a marathon session of Netflix, your overall time spent in front of a screen may add up to 10 hours or more a day. Our eyes aren't meant to be fixed on a single object that long and it's likely to have a negative effect on our eye health," Mr Poon said.

"If most Blue Mountains workers were experiencing frequent symptoms of digital eye strain before COVID-19, they can expect to experience even more symptoms now as our new daily routines include a lot more screen time."

Digital eye strain can cause dry or irritated eyes, lead to blurred vision, difficulty focusing, sensitivity to light, eye fatigue, headaches, and difficulty reading small print.

He encourages people to drink at least two litres of water a day so their eyes are hydrated, and blink regularly and look up from the screen frequently to give their eyes a break.

Adjusting the brightness of the screen so it matched the surrounding light and reducing the glare on the screen using a matte screen filter will also help to reduce eye strain.

He also recommends adjusting the computer set-up so it's an arm's length away, with the screen positioned so your eyes gaze slightly down, not straight ahead or slightly up.

Other common symptoms of eye strain among workers include neck, shoulder and back soreness, difficulty concentrating and focusing, and burning, itchy, watering or dry eyes.

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