March 2, 2020
March is Eye Workplace Wellness and Safety Month
It’s already March of 2020 and this month is Eye Workplace Wellness and Safety Month. Now, most of us think of eye safety as wearing safety glasses if we are working around flying objects and making sure that we have good sun protection if we are working outdoors.
But what do many of us do for our work? Screens! This is definitely eye workplace wellness for computer vision syndrome!
The American Optometric Association defines computer vision syndrome as “the complex of eye and vision problems related to near work that are experienced during or related to computer use.” This can include symptoms such as headaches, eye strain, blurred vision and dry eyes, to name a few.
Our eyes were meant to see far away. When the majority of our days now are looking at things within arm’s reach, our eyes have to constantly focus to make the images clear. When we focus on print in a book or newspaper, our eyes can start that focus at the top of the page and continue focusing throughout the page in a smooth pattern. On a screen, our eyes don’t see the letters as “crisp” since the letters are made up of pixels. This causes our eyes to be in a constant state of focus to make the image clear as we look at the screen. It is not as natural as the reading on a page is. Besides focusing, our eyes must converge or “cross in”. This requires more work on the part of the eye muscles. Holding this position for long periods of time can be strenuous on the eyes.
As our eyes stare at the screen for hours on end for business or pleasure, we don’t blink! Studies show that our blink rate goes from one blink every 3 seconds to every 12-16 seconds! That’s a big difference! More time between blinks means the tear film is not being renewed as often and also that the surface of the eye is exposed to evaporation for a longer period of time. What do we feel? Burning, stinging eyes, blurry vision, excess tearing and tired eyes. Sound familiar?
What can we do about this? Well, we could decrease screen time, but let’s be real. Most of us need to screen time for our jobs and that is not an option. Along with our jobs, we “need” to stay connected with our family and friends and get a little entertainment in there also! So, to help our eyes stay relaxed and happy, think of the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
These small eyes breaks make our eyes relax when we look far away and as we relax our eyes, we tend to blink also which makes our eyes less dry! We can also use over the counter rewetting drops to rehydrate the surface.
Since screens are not going away, we can take these small steps to make sure our eyes are comfortable. Eye breaks are just as important to our wellness as exercise to our body!