The average office worker spends about seven hours a day staring at a computer or laptop screen. In between and afterwards, there are also a few doses of smartphone or tablet screen time. This prolonged exposure to screens wreaks havoc with the eyes and can lead to vision-related problems.
“When we think of eye care in the workplace, thoughts go to the use of protective goggles used by factory workers,” said Zelda van Coller, optometrist at Zelda van Coller Optometrists Dynamic Vision in Alberton. “However, computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, is a very common yet lesser acknowledged cause of vision problems associated with our workplaces.
“Blue light, which emits from the screens of computers, laptops and smartphones, is harmful to eyes because it has the highest energy wavelength of visible light, and this penetrates right through the eye’s natural filters to the back of the eye,” van Coller said. “This exposure can over time cause damage to the back of the eyes, increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and permanent vision loss.
“Constantly staring at a screen also contributes to fatigue, blurred vision, watery eyes and headaches which can affect our productivity at work. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you could be suffering from digital eye strain and some corrective action is needed.”
Simple tactics can help to reduce digital eye strain. For instance, van Coller says that screens should be correctly positioned at least an arm’s length away and at 20 degrees below eye level. Screens should also be positioned so that sunlight or artificial light doesn’t shine onto them, producing unwanted glare. In office spaces where there are large windows or it is difficult to prevent reflection of light by changing the position of the screen, an anti-glare screen fitted to the monitor can help to reduce the intensity of the glare.
Computer screens should also not be overly bright. In fact, the brightness should be almost the same as the general brightness level in the workplace. A too bright or too dark screen can cause strain to the eyes. If font size is an issue, change the settings on the computer to prevent having to lean forward or squint to read what is on the screen.
“It is also advisable to take a break from your screen every 20 minutes or so,” van Coller said. “Remember the 20/20/20 rule, where you look up from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at least 20 feet away. Also try to blink more frequently. Ordinarily we blink about 12 times per minute, but when we are looking at a screen we blink less, sometimes as little as five times in a minute. Blinking more will help to keep your eyes lubricated and reduce dryness and other irritations.
“If you are waking up every day with red and irritated eyes, you can relieve the symptoms with artificial tear drops or gel eye drops to relieve discomfort. However, please ask your optometrist to advise you on eye drops that are most suitable for your eyes to get the best results.”
Van Coller says that regular eye tests to identify vision problems early, and adopting appropriate vision correction, will help to prevent damage to the eyes and improve productivity.
Answer the following question and e-mail your correct answer together with your full contact details, name, surname and cell number to ([email protected]) in order to be eligible for the prize. Only one reader can win.
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Starting date: Sunday, March 11 at 12 noon.
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