The pandemic has caused more employers to adopt the work from home scheme to protect their employees from exposure or being infected with the viral illness. With this work arrangement, several people spend long hours working on their computers or mobile devices—which can have an adverse effect on their eyesight.
Looking at a computer screen for a long period of time can lead to eye strain causing headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and eye redness, according to Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo, an ophthalmologist at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and also the head of the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Pag tuloy-tuloy tayong gumagamit ng computer, ang problema nun talagang nai-strain yung mata natin (If you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen, our eyes will be strained),” Domingo told Manila Bulletin. “Ang tendency hindi ka kumukurap eh pag nakaharap ka sa screen. Bumabawas yung blinking natin kaya nada-dry yung ating tears at nada-dry yung mata natin (The tendency is that you don’t blink when you are looking at the screen. Our blinking decreases, so our tears dry up, causing the eyes to become dry),” he added.
How to reduce eye strain
One might say that the best solution to reduce eye strain is to limit your time in front of your computer screen. This, however, might not be possible if you need to work for a long period of time under the work-from-home arrangement. Here are some steps keeping your eyes healthy.
“The number one advice is take frequent breaks. You have to rest. Close your eyes for a few seconds, also look away from your computer screen,” said Domingo.
The Department of Health (DOH) also advised to practice the 20-20-20 rule.
“If you spend a lot of time using a computer, you forget to blink your eyes and your eyes can get tired. To reduce eye strain, every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.” the DOH said.
It is also important to make your computer screen “eye friendly,” according to John Hopkins Medicine website.
“If the computer screen is brighter than the surrounding light, the eyes have to work harder to see. Adjusting the screen’s brightness to match the level of light around it can help reduce eye strain,” it said. “Increasing the contrast on the screen may also help. If the screen has a lot of glare, try using a matte screen filter.”
It is also necessary to see an eye doctor to determine if you need to wear eyeglasses, particularly for individuals aged 40 and above, said Domingo.
“Kasi syempre yung vision mo medyo mahina na pag lumagpas ka ng 40. So, pag pinipilit mo ang mata mo, lalo kang nai-strain. Kung kailangan magsalamin, magsalamin habang nagtatrabaho in front of the computer (Of course your eyesight weakens when you age, particularly when you reach 40. So, when you force your eyes, the more they will be strained. If you need eyeglasses, wear they while working in front of the computer),” said Domingo.
Other ways to keep your eyes healthy
Domingo also emphasized the importance of eating healthy food and maintaining a balanced diet. “Alam naman natin para sa mata would be vitamin A. Ang pinakamagandang source niyan would be fruits and vegetables. Healthy diet and of course lots of fluids para hindi tayo dehydrated (We know that vitamin A is good for the eyes. The best source of that would be fruits and vegetables. Also, have a healthy diet and of course lots of fluids to help you avoid dehydration),” he said.
The DOH said green leafy vegetables are good for the eyes too, adding that “eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.”
It is also important to maintain a healthy weight, the DOH said. “Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of developing diabetes. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma,” it said.
Get regular exercise, the DOH said. “Exercise may help to prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These diseases can lead to some eye or vision problems. So if you exercise regularly, you can lower your risk of getting these eye and vision problems,” it said.
It is also important to avoid smoking. “Smoking increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and cataracts, which can damage the optic nerve,” the DOH said.
Take steps to prevent infection if you are wearing eye contacts, the DOH said. “Wash your hands well before you put in or take out your contact lenses. Also, follow the instructions on how to properly clean them, and replace them when needed,” it said.
It is also necessary to consult an eye doctor if you experience persistent vision or eye problems, said Domingo.
“Kapag talagang meron po tayong nararamdaman sa mata lalo na kung meron tayong blurring of vision, mga persistent eye pain, or nakikita natin na palabo ng palabo yung ating paningin, huwag natin ipagwalang bahala (If you really have persistent eye problem, especially if you are experiencing blurring of vision or persistent eye pain, do not ignore it),” he said. “Magpatingin po tayo sa ophthalmologist—para ma-examine completely yung ating mata at makita kung meron tayong kailangan gamutin (Consult an ophthalmologist to completely examine your eyes and to determine if you need a treatment).”