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March is Workplace Eye Health Month. If you’re one of the millions of people whose workplace is now a computer screen at home, your eyes may be feeling the strain.

Screens & eye strain: the struggle is real

If you’re working from home, eye strain may be a major problem. Many of us have moved out of well-lit offices and now spend our days (and nights) staring at screens from our kitchen table, family room couch, or even our bedroom. According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, about 42 percent of Americans are now working from home—more than ever before. Screen time has also hit record levels.

Eye health experts are extremely concerned about this unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the damage it’s causing our eyes, a condition we now call computer vision syndrome. Yes, that’s a real name for a very real problem.

The American Optometric Association defines computer vision syndrome as a multitude of eye strain symptoms—including headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck pain, and shoulder pain—that develop when we spend too much time looking at a computer, tablet, or cell phone. Whatever your screen of choice may be, the eye damage caused by continued exposure to blue light can be severe.

Blue light, beware

Blue light is one of the primary causes of working-from-home eye strain. That familiar blue glow radiating from the screens of our favorite devices may seem harmless, but it’s not. Repeated exposure to this short wavelength, high-energy light can damage your retinal cells and cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye condition that often results in vision loss. To avoid excessive blue light, consider changing your screen background to the blackout version.

How work-from-home eye strain affects our eyes

When we spend too much time staring at screens, two main eye systems are affected—our binocular vision and our tear film. Binocular vision is what helps our eyes converge so we can see words and images clearly on the screen. Our tear film is a thin layer of fluid that covers the eye to protect it and help maintain its function. Every time we blink, we restore and smooth the surface of our tear film.

Excessive use of electronic devices reduces the efficiency of our eye muscles, making our eyes less able to converge to clearly see what’s on the screen. Because we blink less often and less fully when we’re looking at a screen, our tear film function is also affected, causing issues with focus, tear production, and more.

Work-from-home eyesight challenges

Whether you’re a student doing remote learning or an adult working from home, eyesight challenges are abundant. In many homes, it’s impossible to duplicate the environment of an office or classroom. And with screen exposure at record levels, your eyes are forced to work overtime.

Thankfully, many working-from-home eyesight challenges have workable solutions. To prevent eye strain from computer exposure, consider implementing these changes in your home workspace.

The right light

Lighting that’s too bright or too dim can lead to headaches and other eye strain symptoms. Soft white LED or incandescent light bulbs will create the best artificial light to work under. Be sure to consider your phone or computer screen as a light source as well. Many devices offer a setting that automatically adjusts the screen brightness based on your surroundings. Your screen should be bright enough that you don’t have to squint, but not so bright that the screen seems illuminated.

Improve your posture

You may not realize that your posture and your eyes are connected, but maintaining good posture while you work is your first line of defense against eye strain from computer exposure. Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor and elevate your wrists rather than resting them on your keyboard. Your screen should be positioned just below your line of sight for a natural downward gaze, which is easier on the eyes.

Exercise your eyes

People blink far less when they’re looking at a screen, so it’s important to make a conscious effort to blink more. Try blinking your eyes slowly ten times every twenty minutes. Eye health experts also recommend using the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a break. Every twenty minutes focus on something that’s twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Better yet, step away from the computer or put down your phone so your eyes can rest.

Go bigger

If you notice yourself squinting to read the text on your screen, simply increasing your font size can help prevent eye strain. You can also opt for a bigger monitor, which automatically increases the size of the screen you’re looking at.

Our eyes are working harder for us than ever before. As we fight to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s also join the fight for healthy vision.

About FastMed

FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates over 100 clinics in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.fastmed.com.

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