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Eyes Tired from Increased Screen Time During COVID 19 Pandemic?

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic altered the lifestyles of people around the globe, many of us – adults and children alike – have spent more time staring at screens, whether for work, virtual learning, or entertainment. As fall settles in, it looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon.

There’s no need to panic, however, as prolonged screen time on these devices won’t likely lead to permanent damage to the eyes, especially if preventative measures are put into practice.

Before we discuss those measures, it’s important to note how eye strain can present itself. Discomfort from gazing at a device’s screen for too long could manifest itself as:

  • blurred vision
  • tired eyes that tear or sting
  • headaches (especially at the front of one’s head)

Research has shown that children who spend an inordinate amount of time in front of screens (e.g. watching YouTube videos, playing video games, Facetiming with friends, etc.) may be at risk for nearsightedness (myopia).

How to Avoid Eye Fatigue

Advice for avoiding eye fatigue is the same for both adults and kids.

  1. 1. It may seem obvious, but give yourself a break from screen time at regular intervals. You can schedule your breaks in 20-minute blocks: Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for a few moments. Try to look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  1. 2. Switch up your reading habits by digging into real books vs. ebooks every other time you do so. Similar to tip number one, look up and out the window every few chapters. Insert sticky notes or bookmarks into your children’s books to remind them to do the same.
  1. 3. Glare from light sources reflecting off your screen can be more harmful than the light emanating from the screen itself. If outside, try not to look at your device’s screen at all. If inside, position the screen so that it points away from bright lights, thus reducing glare.
  1. 4. Speaking of being outside, try to get out of the house or office as often as possible. The fresh air is good for you (and your children) and it helps to train your eyes at objects in the distance, thereby helping to stave off nearsightedness (myopia).
  1. 5. Keep your eyes moistened by using lubricating eye drops when your eyes feel dry or itchy (not “red-eye” relief drops).
  1. 6. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and make an effort to blink more often and to blink slowly. This will help with eye fatigue and dryness.
  1. 7. Keep your device about two or three feet (an arm’s length) away from your eyes and a bit below your line of vision. This good for your eyes, back, neck and posture, too.
  1. 8. Making adjustments to the brightness and contrast of your device’s screen can be helpful in reducing eye fatigue in the long run.

We might not be able to avoid digital screen time completely, especially as work and school requirements mandate it, but the tips offered above can make it more manageable and can alleviate eye fatigue as well as long-term progression of nearsightedness. Setting some guidelines for yourself – and especially for children who seem to be able to stare at their screens for hours on end – will keep everyone seeing more easily and clearly now and in the future.

Dr. Stephen H. Uretsky is a board-certified ophthalmologist with 35 years of practice experience who specializes in comprehensive eye care. Dr. Michael G. Miller is a dedicated optometrist with a passion for helping correct vision loss in patients. Coastal Jersey Eye Center features an optical center, Classic Eyewear, which provides eyeglass frames and lenses to suit every style and budget.

For more information on eye exams or to schedule an appointment, call the Linwood office at 609-927-3373 or the Cape May Court House office at 609-465-7926. Visit us online at CoastalJerseyEye.com.