The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of changes and new challenges to our lives, including social distancing, wearing a face mask, canceling events, and stocking up on cleaning and sanitizing products. Another significant challenge that many people are facing now is working or learning from home.

While working and learning from home, one thing that you should consider is how screen time can affect your eyes. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 32.4% of Americans reported experiencing digital eye strain. Now, that number may be higher, as many people have started working and learning from home over the last few months and screen time has increased. Specifically, a recent survey found that remote workers are tacking on an additional 3.13 hours per day of screen time while working from home.

The effects of extended screen time can be dangerous for anyone, but for young people, it can be particularly risky. Unlike their parents or adults in the workforce who spend many hours a day in front of the computer, kids and teens typically do not. Now that many are learning remotely, this extended screen time in combination with the fact that keratoconus commonly presents itself in teens, can make a whole new generation of kids particularly vulnerable. However, if proper precautions are taken, you can still excel at working or learning from home while protecting your eyes.

Reduce Digital Eye Strain

According to the American Optometric Association, digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and cell phone use. There are various ways to reduce digital eye strain, but treatment options are not always the same for everyone. Talking with your optometrist and considering some simple lifestyle changes will help you to identify what treatment options will give you relief from eye strain.

Computer eye strain glasses are a common way to relieve digital eye strain symptoms. These glasses and select contacts include lenses featuring magnification, plus anti-reflective and blue light-filtering capabilities, to help reduce the symptoms. The 20/20/20 Rule can also help to give your eyes a much-needed rest. This is regularly recommended to anyone working or using digital screens. The rule is simple: every 20 minutes look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.


Don’t Forget to Blink!

Did you know that blinking is good for the eyes? We’ve all been there, having had a busy day staring at a computer and realizing that you “forgot” to blink. Blinking can help create tears, which ultimately lubricates your eyes and stops them from feeling itchy.

If you’re still struggling with itchy or dry eyes, you should consider using a humidifier in an office or room where you spend extended time on the computer. You can also keep lubricating eye drops on hand, to help with any dryness or itchiness.

Set up Your Workspace

If this is the first time you’re working or learning from home, you may not have a home office. Your workspace may end up being your kitchen table, couch, or a desk in your bedroom. Setting up a designated workspace can help when it comes to protecting your eyes. To start, adjusting your monitor is a simple fix that can make a big impact on your eyes and body. Your screen should be slightly lower than eye level and centered between 15 and 20 degrees below horizontal eye level. This will not only help your eyes but also stop you from hunching over while you work.

Your screen/monitor’s brightness should match the surrounding workspace brightness. Font size also matters. Increasing the font size on your screen can help prevent straining your eyes to read any text. Don’t forget about other parts of your body as well. You should have a chair that has good lumbar support and allows your feet to be flat on the floor.


Stay Active & Take Breaks

It’s important to take a break from staring at your screen if your eyes begin feeling dry and tired, or you just need a breather. Stepping away from your screen for a few minutes can help you refocus mentally while allowing you to give your eyes a rest.

A break can be as simple as walking around the block, having a snack, taking a nap, or calling your family/friends. Staying active during your break by exercising, can help increase your productivity. It can improve your mood, stimulate creativity, and increase focus. Even if your eyes may not need a break, you might! If you’re busy and buried in work, you may not notice when a couple of hours have passed. If this happens often, set some reminders on your calendar to take a short break a few times a day.

Don’t Forget Your Eye Health!

Make sure you’re prioritizing your eye health! If you notice you’ve been staring at your screen for too long, don’t forget to take a break. Digital eye strain can be prevented and treated, so don’t neglect your eye health during these challenging times.

If you notice any changes in your vision while working or learning from home, make sure to get your eyes checked. You may be suffering from digital eye strain, or it could be something more serious, such as keratoconus. For more information on keratoconus and general eye health, make sure to follow Living with KC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.