Screens, Strain & Society: Digital “DETOX” for your Eyes

Screens, Strain & Society: Digital “DETOX” for your Eyes
Screens in our daily lives

Today our lives are run by screens: whether its your computer, your laptop, your phone, iPad or even your kindle, you are almost always glued to your screens. Children too are addicted to screens instead of playing board games or engaging in other outdoor activities.

And this has not happened suddenly. Over the years, people from almost all walks of life have shifted to screens and computers, including myself. Today all our patient management softwares are online and computers have become a part of our job description.

Screens are backlit and pixelated and hence reading off screens is more strenuous on the eyes. Also, the blink-rate decreases when we concentrate for long durations on the screen so tear spreading is affected. As our screens are backlit, we also have a tendency to hold our cellphones etc closer to our face and read with the lights off. Due to this we have seen an exponential rise in Dry Eye, eye strain and other eye complications. 

Dry eye was not even considered a problem during my days of training. People who had complaints of eye strain and burning sensation were usually misled by friends and family to water-splashing or putting rose water etc in their eyes. Although these methods did provide temporary relief, they have led to an increase in chronic dry eye . Now-a-days, in our practice, atleast in urban India, around 65% of our patients suffer from some form of dry eye. We’ve also given it a “screen-friendly” name: COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME.

Current Lockdown and screen usage
work from home
Work from Home due to COVID19 pandemic

With the current lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic and “work from home” directives, our screen time has increased even more. We are either, sleeping, eating or staring at a screen. 

Employees are using their free time to up-skill and learn new tech. Professionals are making the most of their extra time indoors by enhancing their skills and capabilities. Schools have also started using digital learning platforms. Entertainment has now shifted to screens with Netflix, AmazonPrime, Hotstar and other online platforms.And all this adds to eye strain and Dry eye. 

So what we need today are ways to “digitally detox our eyes” and find a balance between work and health. We should reduce eye strain as much as possible so that we can carry out our work and daily activities without any complications.

So there are some simple things we can do that will go a long way to protect our eyes:
  1. DO NOT SPLASH WATER IN YOUR EYES: When you wash your face or take a bath, keep your eyes closed, splash water, clear around your eyes and wipe. The more you prevent water entering the eyes, the better off you are.
  1. FOLLOW THE 20-20-20 RULE:  Every 20min, take a 20sec break and look 20 feet away. What this does is that it will relax the internal muscles of the eyes and will reduce eye strain. Take longer breaks whenever possible.
  1. HAVE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP : I can’t stress enough the importance of sleep and its connection to eye strain. I recommend a good night’s sleep of 7-8 hours.
  1. TREAT YOUR VITAMIN DEFICIENCY: A few fat-soluble vitamins act as anti- inflammatory markers in the tears. If they are deficient, inflammatory reactions in the tears increase to cause tear-film imbalance
  1. BLUE LENSES are recommended as they cut most of the UV light emitted from computer screens. I personally haven’t been able to find compelling data regarding this but they seem` to be better than the regular anti-reflective coating
  1. PICK UP A SPORT: Try a new sport as they not only exercise the body and the mind but also give you a well deserved break from your screens.

So whether you are a CEO of a company or a home-maker, eye strain has increased due to increasing screen usage. We have to change our attitude now so that we prevent these eye complications in the future before it’s too late. 

So let’s start SIMPLE and let’s start NOW.