by Alastair Lockwood, eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts
We already know that the overuse of computers and smartphones can cause significant strain to our eyes, but with changes to work and daily life meaning we are now more reliant on screens than ever before (such as the one you’re looking at right now), it’s integral you take precautions to protect yourself and your employees once you have put your smart device away.
For those who work in roles that are heavily office-based, taking care of your eyes is even more important to combat the hours spent on your phone, computer screen or console. Optometrists are finding an increasing number of tech-related eye strains in patients, demonstrating the threat devices pose to our long term eye health.
To maximise your health and maintain your vision as close to 20/20 in the upcoming year, we have compiled tips, nutritional advice and strategies that employers and staff can use to help to really see better in 2020.
Encourage regular breaks from your computer screen.
Using a computer too frequently can cause computer vision syndrome (CVS), where the eyes become tired, dry and even strained from the glare. To prevent this, employees are advised to blink regularly during the day when working on a computer to avoid dry eyes.
Taking regular breaks is imperative when sitting in front of a screen, where the famous 20-20-20 rule can come in handy. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen to look at something 20 feet away. This vital break will give your eyes a chance to rest and is an effective way to reduce eye strain.
Adjust your technical environment.
Having a high-quality resolution and adequately bright screen can significantly ease the pressure on your eyes to focus on the computer. Working with a dull screen or glare forces eyes to strain more, making it important to regularly check the screen brightness and resolutions of your equipment.
Employees should request anti-glare screens from their employer, reducing the everyday strain on their eyes. Sufficient lighting is required around desks for equal brightness since shadows and light glare can cause eye fatigue. Computer screens should rest at least 25 inches away.
A clean environment with minimal dust is important will cause less irritation. Artificial tears can help supplement your natural tear film.
Reduce smoking intake.
Smoking exposes your eyes to high levels of oxidative stress and has been linked to the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes and dry eye syndrome. Quitting smoking at any stage of life can be beneficial, reducing the risk of developing eye threatening conditions.
Go on 20-minute walks, four times a week.
Exercising regularly is a recommended way to keep your eyes in check. Exercising will lower the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), helping to protect retinal ganglion cells. It may help in glaucoma patients, but autoregulation, ie independent of exercise is the main control here for blood flow.
Try to sleep for 7-9 hours a day.
For most people, sleeping is the one period during the day when their eyes are not required to focus. During sleep, the eyes are rehydrated with a supply of natural tears, a process which requires a minimum of 5 hours to replenish.
If sleeping is an issue, taking the above steps of exercising regularly are helpful tips to tackle this. Relaxing in bed without using a screen can also help, as well as hot baths, light yoga or reading a book. If your sleep issue persists, visit a doctor to assess if there are any underlying issues to your sleeping patterns.
Eat a balanced diet.
To maintain healthy eyes, eating foods rich in vitamins c and e, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zinc are highly recommended. Kale, spinach, salmon, tuna, eggs, nuts, beans, oranges and oysters are some of the many foods crucial to this balanced diet.
Change your eye makeup regularly.
With the eye-watering prices of high-end makeup, it is not uncommon for consumers to continue using their eye makeup until it completely runs out. Liquid and cream eye makeups do, however, collect bacteria which can harbour in brushes, lids or the product itself. Eye makeup and mascara should be replaced every 3 months to minimise the risk of infections and products should never be shared with others.
Wear sunglasses with the correct protection.
Although sunglasses make an excellent accessory in the summer, their importance for eye protection should not be underestimated. Fast fashion retailers do not always produce sunglasses with the correct materials to avoid harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. This makes it imperative for consumers to ensure they purchase glasses which cover both UVA and UVB protection.
Get your eyes checked regularly.
Regular eye examinations are crucial to spotting sight loss or damage before it worsens. Optometrists can help detect conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration which can lead to sight loss, so visiting your optician is an important step in maintaining good eye health.
To tackle the increasing use of screens in our daily lives, try out these eye health tips to keep your vision as close to 20/20 as you can. Perhaps thought of eating salmon every day and cutting out coffee might not be your ideal news, so trying a balanced approach with work, exercise and food habits may be just the trick to improve your eyesight for the year ahead.
Alastair Lockwood is an eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts and surgeon who is passionate about trying to stop people going blind from glaucoma – a leading cause of irreversible blindness. His research specialises into how to treat those patients who are unresponsive to conventional treatment, and is in the stages of developing new models for surgery to cure glaucoma.