Healthy Vision Month: Eye Strain and the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Dr. Jerson Desiderio, Optometrist

If you find yourself rubbing your eyes more than usual these days, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, including our eye health.  Long hours spent in virtual meetings or online schooling has increased reports of eyestrain and it is taking a toll on our vision. As we mark Healthy Vision Month in May, it is important to refocus digital habits to help protect your eyesight, as well as that of your children.

A recent survey by Ipsos and the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition found that 44 percent of children in the United States are spending more than four hours every day on their electronic devices. That is double the rate that existed before the pandemic lockdown. Unfortunately, this coincides with the global rise in myopia (nearsightedness) diagnoses.

In addition, a 2020 study published by the American Journal of Ophthalmology, linked increased digital screen time and limited outdoor activities to the onset and progression of myopia. This could eventually increase the risk for vision impairment from conditions like retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to protect overall vision:

  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break from the screen every 20 minutes (set a timer if you need to); look at least 20 feet away from the screen for at least 20 seconds.
  • Do not use digital screens outdoors and when inside, point the screen away from bright lights to reduce glare.
  • Try to limit screen time by spending more time outdoors. This has shown to slow the progression of nearsightedness.
  • Hydrate your body and remember to blink regularly to keep eyes from feeling dry and tired.
  • If your eyes are dry and itchy, get relief from lubricating eye drops and not “red-eye” prevention drops.

If you have concerns about any vision issues you or your child may be experiencing, call (832) 548-5000 to schedule a visit with a Legacy Community Health vision professional.