The Eyes and Increased Screen Time

Our eyes have borne the brunt of the pandemic, and most patiently. While outdoor life and activities were restricted like never before, our only connect to the outside world has been the screen – be it that of the mobile, laptop or T.V. And though the pandemic seems to be abating, our screen time has increased for good now. Our eyes are daily deluged to the bright, incessant light of the screens.

Cutting across age groups and class, from tiny tots to the elderly, we have all become addicted to the screen. Work from home still continues for the majority and many organisations are thinking of a hybrid mode for good in the future.

The computer as a study aid is inevitable for students. So, taking care of our eyes, the two precious windows to the world is more important than ever, as they are doing extra work for long hours. Work for which they were not designed.

I will be outlining a few simple but effective tips to protect our eyes from the damage that can be caused by prolonged screen time.

Symptoms of digital eye strain include – headache, blurry vision, tired eyes, inability to focus and even irritability. As true for all things, prevention is better than cure here too.

How to prevent eyes from the damage caused by prolonged screen time? –

  1. Less is more – Switch on the screen only when you must. If it is possible to avoid, do it. For example, read a printed book instead of reading the soft copy. In other words, try to minimise your screen time as much as possible.
  2. Breaking is good here – Give some rest to your eyes in between screen time. Human eyes are designed for focussing at far objects most of the times and for intermittent near work. Modern age has reversed this role of eyes. Our eyes are focussing at near objects mostly and rarely do we lift our heads and look far. So, it is very important that after every 20-30 minutes of continuous screen time we focus at far objects, like looking outside the window or getting up and moving around. Simply closing the eyes or palming them also can be very relaxing.
  3. Maintain the distance and position – Like social distancing, digital distancing is also important. An ideal distance to hold the mobile would be about 14-16 inches. The laptop or computer screen should be roughly placed at an arm’s length. The position should be such that the neck, shoulders and back are not unduly strained by constant bending and slouching.
  4. Blue is not always soothing – The blue light found in cell phones, tablets and computers is known to potentially damage the retina in long term. It can also negatively effect the sleep pattern as it can increase alertness and delay the body’s release of melatonin which helps induce sleep. It is advised to avoid use of blue light devices one to two hours before bedtime. Blue light blocking glasses, commonly referred to as Blue Cut Glasses can reduce the impact of blue light and prevent the damage it causes. Those who spend long hours on the screen will benefit from these glasses.
  5. Hydrate your eyes too – Prolonged staring at screens reduces our blink rate and so also reduces the rate at which eyes wet themselves with the tear film. Add to this the de-humidifying effect of air conditioners in summers. This has led to an increased prevalence of dry eyes. If you notice a persistent gritty, uncomfortable sensation in your eyes, it’s time to consult your eye specialist for the proper kind of lubricating drops which may be required long term.

Change is the only constant. We need to adjust and adapt to the changing times and at the same time take a little extra care of our two precious windows to the world.

Dr. Seema Bajaj (Eye Specialist)

Mental Health

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