Eye strain during the COVID-19 pandemic

A local eye doctor explains how to avoid eye strain in the pandemic when many activities are confined to a computer screen.
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) - With many of us meeting through a computer screen these days, some people are feeling eye strain.

Dr. Lee Robertson, an optometrist at Elkton Eyecare, said he is hearing a lot of reports from his patients of too much screen time and eye fatigue.

“A lot of them complain of headaches, eye strain; they’re worried if their eyes are getting worse, you know, those types of concerns. I think people inherently either feel or know that staring at something that close to you that long is not good for them,” Robertson said.

Robertson has also been noticing an increase in requests for contact lenses during the pandemic because of masks.

“I’ve had a lot of people want to try them for the first time, a lot of people want to go back to them, haven’t worn them for a while, and their main reason is they can’t stand their glasses fogging up,” Robertson said.

Robertson said eye strain, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily bad for your eyes, but it’s your eyes telling you to take a break.

However, there is some evidence that shows long-term blue light exposure from screens is not good for your vision.

Some ways to tackle these problems are to get a blue light filter either through your prescription or over-the-counter glasses, or through a feature on your phone.

In Robertson’s field there is a “20-20 rule;” for every 20 mins looking up close, spend 20 seconds looking far away like outside or down a hallway.

“When you look far away your eyes are resting. Anytime you are looking up close, they are working. So taking that little break can help a lot,” Robertson said. “A lot of us just tend to get fixated in our work and just keep staring and staring and next thing you know, an hour’s gone by. No wonder our eyes are tired.”

Robertson said he worries about children because eyes tend to change most when you’re growing, and a lot of students have been using more devices and focusing on those screens while learning virtually.

When looking at a screen, Robertson suggests sitting further back from the screen if you can.

He added that children are prone to becoming nearsighted if they are looking at things close up all the time.

In the pandemic, Robertson has also noticed glasses changes for those who have bifocals.

Bifocals are designed for seeing far away and up close in your hands but not for looking at a computer, so Robertson has written a lot of prescriptions for “computer glasses” so people can better view their screen.

Overall, Robertson advises taking steps now to help your vision in the future, like protecting your eyes from blue light.

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