Is more screen time during the pandemic straining your eyes?

Here’s why, plus tips on what you can do about it
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 2:05 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 5, 2021 at 2:47 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We know too much screen time can be harmful to our vision. So, with more meetings online and family hangouts happening virtually, how has the pandemic affected your eyes?

Migraines, dry and tired eyes are just a few of the telltale signs that our eyes are being impacted by our screens. And the pandemic has made us more aware of these issues.

“My gosh definitely, I’m a student so I know being on my computer all day definitely effects my vision and my sleep for sure,” said Hannah Munn of Williston.

Munn studies physical therapy at Ithaca College and says remote learning has definitely taken a toll on her eyes. She had glasses before the pandemic, but has noticed her vision getting worse.

“I know that like with being on my phone and like having, I guess my phone and computer really up close, it strains my vision,” she said. “So, it makes it harder for me to see up close. And then like even harder to see far away.”

Munn says she’s lucky because her program allows her to take some classes in-person, and not everyone at her school gets that opportunity.

“So they have even more screen time,” she said.

Munn isn’t the only one experiencing this. Trang Do is a business major at the University of Vermont who also wears glasses. She doesn’t think her vision has changed but she is experiencing intense headaches and dry eyes.

“So with prolonged screen time, definitely getting headaches. I get migraines sometimes when it’s a long exposure time,” Do said.

Remote learning has put an extra stress on college students’ eyes. But Dr. Tony Hollop, an optometrist at Associates in Eye Care in Burlington, says these impacts don’t discriminate on age. They could happen to anyone.

“I found students, college students have been coming in more because they’re taking their classes online now. But really any ages-- 30s, 40s and up. People are coming in, noticing that they’ve been using their eyes more than before the pandemic,” Hollop said.

He says it’s the little things that make a big impact, like not having those face to face meetings. Even if it was just a quick chat with a colleague, all of that is happening virtually, making us stare at our screens for prolonged periods of time.

“It seems to me that with the increased screen time, people aren’t blinking as much,” Hollop said.

That is what is drying out our eyes. He suggests taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes to combat this. He also blames blue light for tired eyes, focusing issues and a lack of sleep.

“One way I combat that is I have an extension on my computer called f.lux. That makes the light that emits from the computer more warm, versus the blue light that usually comes from the electronics,” Do said.

Even if you don’t have a prescription, Hollop says you can get lenses with a protective coating that will decrease your blue light intake.

So, if you are spending your days on the computer, remember to take breaks, blink more and try to decrease your blue light consumption.

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