Pandemic eye problems: Too much screen time has people flocking to eye doctors

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INDIANAPOLIS –Since the start of the pandemic, the amount of time Americans have been spending looking at a device screen has skyrocketed.

For the better part of a year, kids spent (and some still spend) their entire school day on a computer or tablet while learning from home. Adults who were forced to work remotely found themselves in the same situation.

Now, optometrists say it’s having a major impact on our eyes.

Many optometrists have reported that people have been flocking to their offices complaining of numerous eye issues. Many of those issues (eye strain, headaches, dry eye, myopia) are being traced back to excess time spent on screens.  

Dr. Judy Walrath, an optometrist with Dr. Tavel’s Family Eye Care says she not only is seeing an influx of adults coming in with issues, but more and more parents are now bringing their kids.

“People have headaches, eye fatigue, whole body fatigue, you just feel exhausted yourself at the end of the day as well. And then dry as the other big one that people complain about,” Walrath said.

Walrath adds long periods of time spent up close to a device screen can create a situation where it’s harder for the eyes to work. That increased exposure can makes it harder for people to focus and lead to the aforementioned symptoms.

There aren’t any firm rules on how long kids or adults should be spending in front of a screen, as much of the guidance is dependent on the individual. Most experts simply recommend a reduction of time spent in front of a screen. But, with the pandemic, many people were forced into a situation where they had no other choice.

Walrath says there is a trick, however, that can be helpful when it comes to mitigating the negative impacts of too much screen time.

“It’s called the 20-20-20 rule. The idea is to look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and blink 20 times. The blinking 20 times is for dryness. The looking away from the screen is you want to try and disengage your focusing system, because when logged into place the same distance all the time, it’s a lot more work on the system. Our eye actually wants to change focus depending on what we’re looking at, and it can kind of spasm. And that’s what leads to all those complaints,” she said.

Walrath says another recommendation would be to add blue light filters to device screens or glasses. There are also anti fatigue lenses which can help reduce the strain on a wearer’s eyes.

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