What first comes to mind when you think about your eyes in this extraordinary time of extended lockdowns and working or studying from home?

Blurred vision? Eye Fatigue? Dry eyes? Headaches? 

You may be suffering from digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome.

While it is close work, rather than screen use per se that strains our eyes, Dr Maturi, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a retina specialist, said that looking at bright devices can make us blink less, which leaves our eyes feeling dry. “When things are bright, we blink less. It’s behavioral. So we can train ourselves to blink more often and blink fully,” he said.

What can we do about it? Here are some tips:

1) 20-20-20 breaks: When engaging in near work activities (i.e., reading books or using digital devices), encourage regular breaks or use the 20-20-20 rule, i.e., look 20 feet (6 metres) away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.  Remember to stretch your arms, neck and legs during this break too! 

2) Optimal reading distance: Are you too close to the screen? A recommended viewing distance for your mobile phone, laptop and desktop is 40, 50 and 70cm respectively. 

For kids, the Harmon distance is recommended where they should be sitting away from their reading object between their elbow upright and 3rd knuckle (~25cm).

3) Lighting: You need to ensure the environment in which you are using the screen is brightly lit, but not so glaring (e.g. with the sun shining on you) such that you can barely see the screen.  Use warm light for less glare.

4) Appropriate eyewear: Our eyes are not made for prolonged viewing at close distance.  You can consider different types of eyewear to improve vision comfort.  For example, blue light blocking glasses can reduce glare and reflection and block out the most harmful spectrum of blue light, to about 60% in the day and 30% at night , so you can experience visual comfort from day to night.  There are also special computer glasses with a power boost at the bottom of the lenses to relax your eyes with extended digital device and near vision usage. 

Get your glasses here.

5) Adequate nutrition: We are what we eat. Food that are rich in antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, or support anti-inflammation such as omega3 and essential fatty acids are critical for good eye health. Think salmon, eggs, avocado, berries and leafy greens. Supplements are available for those who would benefit from additional boost: Vitamins For Dry Eyes, Vitamins for retina