How does staying inside in lockdown affect your eyes?
09 February 2021
A year of lockdown
The last 11 months haven’t been anything that anybody could have anticipated. If someone had told us all this time a year ago that staying inside for days on end would become completely normal (aside from an exciting weekly trip to the supermarket!), many of us wouldn’t have believed it. But now, millions of us spend our days at home glued to some form of screen – be that for work or entertainment – and the dreary February weather doesn’t exactly lure us outside for a daily walk.
We all know staying inside can affect our mood, but did you know that it actually has an impact on our eye health and vision too?
The negative impacts of too much screen time
Pre-lockdown, the average adult spent 8 hours and 41 minutes on digital devices each day. For some individuals, however, this number was likely to be far greater if their jobs required them to be sat in front of computer screens for 35-40 hours a week. Combine this with personal use of a smartphone outside of work hours and a bit of TV watching in the evening, and you could easily reach 12+ hours of screen time in a day.
Living and working from the same space has led to the lines between work and leisure blurring. How many of us have checked work emails just before bed, or find ourselves working way beyond the time when we usually would have left the office, purely because we have nothing else to do during these times? All of these factors feed into increased screen time which brings a whole host of health issues. Symptoms of computer vision syndrome are:
- Blurred vision
- Pain in shoulders and neck
- Dry and red eyes
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Making errors at work
Computer vision syndrome develops as a result of reduced blinking. When staring at screens, we tend to blink a lot less, causing our eyes to dry out and rid themselves of a protective layer of moisture. When we’re using screens, we also usually focus and refocus our eyes repeatedly. Things move around on the screen, demanding more effort from our eyes, often leading to eye strain. Computer vision syndrome is said to occur after looking at screens for more than two hours a time so, if you consider just how much we are relying on screens during this winter lockdown, it’s no wonder that computer vision syndrome is becoming a big problem.
Screens also emit blue light which is thought to lead to macular degeneration as it promotes the growth of poisonous molecules in your eyes. Macular degeneration affects your central vision and causes it to deteriorate, so if you notice any difference to your central vision, it’s important to have your eyes checked by your optician.
To combat the effects of computer vision syndrome, try to take breaks from the screen where possible. Ideally, head outside for regular walks to ensure you’re getting fresh air and that you’re focusing your eyes on something that isn’t a screen.
Staying inside can make you more short-sighted
If the downsides of too much screen time weren’t a bad enough side effect of winter lockdown, it is thought that spending excessive time indoors can also make you more short-sighted. This condition (myopia) occurs when a person has slightly longer eyeballs than usual, preventing them from focusing images neatly on their retinas. It typically means that they see things fine at a close distance but, when objects are further away, they struggle to see them clearly. Common solutions are glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery.
Although myopia is also partially based on genetics, studies have found that children who spend more time indoors are more likely to be short-sighted than those who played outside regularly. Although there are no concrete answers as to why this might be the case, there are a couple of different theories. Some researcher have suggested that “exposure to bright light helps the eyeball stay round”, preventing it from elongating in a manner which brings on myopia. Other scientists think it might be because when you’re outside, you’re typically focusing on objects in the distance, encouraging your eyes to rely on distance vision. When we’re inside, we don’t often look at objects further than a few feet away.
Looking after your eyes during lockdown
Although we’re all following the government’s “stay home” advice, it’s crucial that we do what we can to look after our eyes too. Head outside as often as you can for your daily walk. Firstly, it’s good to get away from screens and symptoms of computer vision syndrome, but it’s also helpful to expose your eyes to some natural light and fresh air, as well as focusing on some objects further away than the kettle at the opposite end of the kitchen.
If working from home and dealing with screen-induced eye irritations has highlighted how much of a hassle glasses are, perhaps you could consider laser eye surgery as an option. If you’d like to hear a bit more about treatment and how it can make day to day life that little bit easier, give us a quick call on 0800 093 1110, or book a consultation online.
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