A few months ago I started having issues with my vision. The symptoms included blurriness, trouble focusing on objects, and fatigue. The symptoms were overall mild, but certain days were much worse than others. These symptoms were exacerbated by the fact that I was staring at a screen (tv, monitor, phone) for 8+ hours a day. I began to think back to my childhood, my mom would always say that being so close to the tv would ruin my vision. I was scared she might be right! However, I had always thought glasses made me look smarter, which meant I wasn’t exactly scared of getting them. So I booked an appointment to have my eyes checked out and maybe walk out looking a little smarter.
The doctor’s visit was pretty straightforward, they checked my vision, dilated my eyes, took some closeup pictures, etc. My hopes for glasses were immediately ruined though, when the doctor told me that I had 20/20 vision and that my eye issues were a result of severely dry eyes. He then went on to explain that this is a common occurrence as people spend more and more time in front of a digital screen. Part of the cause is that people tend to blink a lot less or not at all when focusing on a screen that’s close to them. Most of us blink without thinking every 10 seconds or so, but that number goes down drastically when we’re really focused on our screens. We need to blink to keep our eyes healthy, because every time we do our eyes release a “tear film” that coats and refreshes our eyes. So the less we blink, the drier our eyes become over time.
Luckily for me, my case was treatable with over the counter remedies and a few reminders/exercises that I’ll share with you below.
- Eyedrops — One’s specifically meant for “digital eye” (apparently this is such a common occurrence that a whole industry has formed around “digital eye”).
- Warm compress eye mask — this is an eye mask that you microwave then wear in the hopes that the heat will warm up some of the oils or mucus that have clogged your ducts.
- Lid scrubs — This is a cleanser to wipe away any excess gunk after the warm compress.
- 20/20/20 — Every 20 minutes, take focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps us take our focus away from our screens and has us blinking in more natural increments.
- Reduce screen use — Not exactly the easiest thing for me to do as I’ve been learning how to code and all my time is basically spent in front of a monitor, but so take frequent breaks. Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself of the 20/20/20 rule.
- STOP STARING! — Stop staring at your monitor or phone! Basically just be more conscientious of focusing on something that will strain your eyes.
- Reduce/Avoid blue light — You might have heard about how blue light affects us. There are settings on our phones now that reduce blue light at night, monitors that reduce blue light, and also free software that automatically adjusts the color settings on your monitor to reduce blue light.
- Humidifier — Helpful if you’re in a very dry environment or during the winter.
- Stay hydrated — It’s harder to produce tears if you’re dehydrated!
So in the end no glasses for me, but I did walk away with a lot of knowledge about protecting my eyes. I hope this story has been helpful, especially as we all spend increased time in front a screen. And just remember a healthy eye is a happy eye!