Why your eyes may likely be feeling pandemic fatigue

WINNIPEG — From meetings, to classes, or even just a simple conversation – these days so many different interactions involve screens, and your eyes may be feeling pandemic fatigue.

Zack Nowak looks at screens a lot, he says probably 10 to 12 hours a day. The Memory Express customer service rep said during the pandemic, more people are adjusting their home office to give their eyes a break.

“I’ve had some people that have even returned monitors just because they’ve said, ‘I’m looking at this, it hurts my eyes, it’s painful,'” Nowak said.

Tired, itchy, dry eyes are also more common complaints these days at the optometrist’s office.

“It’s something I even ask about during eye exams now. I’ll say, ‘Do you work on the computer more? Are you having these symptoms?’,” said Optometrist Dr. Nadine Shelton.

Shelton said extended screen time is up as more people work and meet remotely through screens.

“It’s just constant focus and that’s making your muscles tired,” Shelton said.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Doctors of Optometry found nearly half of British Columbians are concerned about eye health.

Shelton says it’s likely a similar statistic in Manitoba.

That same B.C. survey also found during the first six months of the pandemic, the most common issues were itchy, irritated, or dry eyes.

“When you’re looking at a screen you actually forget to blink because you’re concentrating so much, so the tears in your eyes evaporate so your tears become thinner,” Shelton said.

One dry eye solution Shelton suggests is using artificial tears a couple of times a day. Another is the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

“If you could at least for every hour you’re on a screen, maybe look up and go for a walk, get a drink of water. Just do something that is not sitting at a screen.”

Nowak said over the years, he’s developed similar habits to help with eye strain.

“I am not just staring into the monitor the entire time, I’ll absolutely take breaks, look away, try not to focus on the bright light of the monitor for too long, for 12 hours straight,” Nowak said.

Shelton said there is no evidence to show eyestrain causes permanent damage. The same goes for blue light.

She said blue light in the evening may affect sleep. One preventative measure is a lens coating, which blocks about 30 to 40 per cent of blue light. 

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