Although COVID-19 restrictions are starting to lift, many may still be working or studying from home for the foreseeable future.
This could be having negative impacts on our eye health, an expert says.
Specsavers Dapto optometrist Surendran Naidoo is warning Illawarra residents to be mindful about spending too much time staring at screens, as it's causing a surge in digital eye strain.
Digital eye strain can cause dry or irritated eyes, lead to blurred vision, difficulty focusing, sensitivity to light, eye fatigue, headaches, and difficulty reading small print.
"Everyone is spending more time on screens at the moment under COVID-19 restrictions, using computers and smart phones constantly for work and pleasure," Mr Naidoo said.
"If you're going from remote working or studying to a Zoom hangout with friends or family, to a marathon session of Netflix, your overall time spent in front of a screen may add up to 10 hours or more a day.
"Our eyes aren't meant to be fixed on a single object that long and it's likely to have a negative effect on our eye health."
New research, commissioned by Specsavers just before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect indicated that the majority of Australian office workers were already experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, with nine out of ten people claiming to have experienced at least one symptom of digital eye strain while at work.
"If most Illawarra workers were experiencing frequent symptoms of digital eye strain before COVID-19, they can expect to experience even more symptoms now as our new daily routines include a lot more screen time, and we don't see this changing for the foreseeable future," Mr Naidoo added.
Mr Naidoo said there are some simple things that people can do to combat the effects of digital eye strain during COVID-19.
- Blink. Humans normally blink about 15 times a minute. Make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. This keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out. You might even want to put a sticky note on your computer screen reminding you to blink often.
- Drink plenty of water. Your eyes also dry out when you're dehydrated, so it's important to keep up your fluid intake when sitting in front of a screen all day.
- Follow the "20-20-20" rule. Take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest: every 20 minutes shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds. The easiest way to do this is to look out your window at something outside.
- Adjust your position at the computer. When using a computer, you should be sitting about 60cm (about at arm's length) from the screen. Also, position the screen so your eyes gaze slightly downward, not straight ahead or up.
- Adjust brightness and contrast. If your screen glows brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your screen brightness to match the level of light around you. Also, try increasing the contrast on your screen.