After the official declaration of the COVID-19 disease outbreak as a pandemic by World Health Organization on 11th March 2020, all countries including India with outbreak are trying their best to control the spread of the COVID-19 disease. India has implemented social quarantine since 25th March 2020 to control further spread of the COVID-19 disease. Though this lockdown is very important it has affected the children little differently. Their summer vacation has started, but they are not able to go out to play and visit their friends or go for outing. As all the time they are at home, it is likely that they will be spending more time on digital screens- like Mobile, Computer/Laptop, TV, Tablet, Kindle etc.
The lockdown has compounded the problem with the virtual school classes now thus making it increasingly difficult to reduce the screen time of young eyes. But when this time exceeds more than 4 hours a day, it tends to cause Dry eye, also known as Computer vision syndrome (CVS)/Digital Strain, which can lead to eye and/or vision-related problems.
According to Dr Alpa Atul Poorabia, Senior Refractive, Cornea & Cataract Surgeon, Opthomologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital & Clinics, Kondapur opines that it is natural for parents to worry about these issues. Explaining the reasons that causes eye strain, Dr Alpa Athul Poorabia says that any activity involving the yes can cause eye strain, especially if performed for prolonged periods of time or under adverse conditions. Further adding to it, Dr. Poorabia says that any of the following actions for extended time frames may lead into these conditions…
• Reading without resting your eyes
• Using electronic devices like cell phones, tablets or computers
• Being exposed to either extremely bright light (i.e. sunlight or glare) or low-light situations
• Being overly tired or stressed
Children can also get digital eye strain like adults and symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and sometime persistent, She Says.
What Are the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?
The patient can have foreign body sensation, irritation, burning, dry or watery eye, itching, tired or sleepy eye, blurred vision, eye pain, headache or even red eyes, either one or multiple symptoms, either in one eye or both eyes.
• Red, dry or irritated eyes
• Blurred vision
• Eye fatigue
• Back, neck and shoulder pain
Preventing Digital Eye Strain
Worldwide there are evidences of impacts of digital media on cognition, psycho-social function and physical health with benefits and risks. For eye also, many strongly attribute worldwide epidemic of Myopia (Nearsightedness) to increasing exposure to digital screen and less outdoor activity.
In order to prevent Eye Strain, Dr Alpa Atul Poorabia, Senior Refractive, Cornea & Cataract Surgeon, Opthomologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital & Clinics, Kondapur suggests that spending time outdoor especially in early childhood can slow the progression of Myopia, though exact reasons are still unclear. But this is not surely possible during this lockdown, she opines. Then there are several approaches to treating digital eye strain and First and foremost, screen time should be limited and interspersed by frequent breaks, Dr Alpa Atul Poorabia suggests.
Under these circumstances for those who cannot reduce their device usage, there are other ways to lessen the impact of screen time on your eyes.
• Healthy Diet: Consuming a diet rich in Vitamin A and C is very good for good optical health. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants like papaya, carrot, broccoli, spinach, and eggs should be included.
• Decrease the brightness of the screen to a more comfortable level for viewing
• Regular yearly visits to an ophthalmologist may help identify early signs of visual problems.
• There is no doubt that technology use by children is here to stay!! Fortunately, clear steps such as those above exist to mitigate and eliminate, in some cases, the negative impact on children’s vision and overall health.
• Pay attention to your body: Eye, neck, head or shoulder pains are warning signs that digital eye strain may be occurring.
• Blink. Breathe. Break: Remind yourself to blink more often. Staring at a digital screen can affect the number of times you blink, causing eyes to dry.
• Take a 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. Even short breaks make a huge difference.
• Use indirect lighting on the monitor. Avoid lighting directly behind or above a computer screen. Don’t use a lamp pointing at the screen as this may create glare. If your monitor faces a window, angle it to reduce glare.
• Clean your screen. A dust-free, smudge-free screen helps reduce glare and improves contrast.
• Reduce glare. Adjust the brightness of your screen. Make sure your screen’s background colour is set to grey as opposed to white. Consider using a glare filter over your screen.
• Sit right. When using a computer, first sit in your chair and extend your arm. Your palm should rest comfortably on the screen as if you’re high-fiving it. All digital screens should be directly in front of your face, and slightly below eye level, always.
• Increase text size. Try increasing text size to help better define screen content and to make reading more comfortable for your eyes.
• Blink more often. Remind yourself to blink more often. Stick a note that says ‘blink’ on the computer. Blinking also helps the eyes refocus.
• If you wear prescription glasses and suffer from red, dry or irritated eyes, blurred vision, back, neck and shoulder pain or headaches, you should see our optometrists to make sure your glasses are optimal for computer work.
• Wear computer glasses. Computer glasses reduce both computer eye strain and the potentially damaging effects of blue light through the specially treated lenses.
As the normalization seems to be distant far away for the children and online/virtual classes and work from home is going to be continued for upcoming few academic years, parents must keep a watch and take appropriate actions to ensure that their children will not suffer.