During the pandemic, Dr. Melanie Kazlas, Medical Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear, has fielded many questions from concerned parents about the effects of increased screen time on eye health. Dr. Kazlas is also an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.
Recognizing that computers and smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives, Lexington Lions Club and LexMedia got together with Dr. Melanie Kazlas to launch a campaign to promote healthy eye care habits for the digital age.
Did You Know That You Forget to Blink When Using Electronics?
People blink about 15 times a minute. Each blink produces tears that lubricate the eyes to keep them smooth and clear. Studies suggest that people only blink half as often while looking at a computer screen or other digital devices. This can result in dry eyes, blurry vision, fatigue and other issues, known as the Digital Eye Strain or Computer Eye Syndrome.
Dr. Kazlas points out that dry eyes can make it problematic to wear contact lenses. Excessive screen time can also cause strain on the brain and exacerbate existing eye diseases.
So, what can we do to reduce dry eyes, blurry vision and fatigue?
What is 20/20/20?
Dr. Kazlas says: “If you want to keep your 20/20 vision, practice 20/20/20.”
20/20/20 stands for:
- Every 20 minutes
- Look 20 feet away
- For 20 seconds
It sounds simple enough but it takes a lot of discipline to stick with it. For example, online classes are often longer than 20 minutes. It is not a bad idea to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, but how can teachers remember to do it?
A timer can be your new best friend. Dr. Kazlas also encourages children and parents to use a timer at home to remind themselves to take breaks when on their computers or smartphones.
If you enjoy video games and social media, enjoy it in moderation!
Artificial Tears, Blue-light Blocking Glasses, Natural Light and Salmon
Artificial tears are the simplest way to help with dry eyes. Dr. Kazlas recommends single-use, preservative-free artificial tears.
Blue light from electronic devices may stimulate your biological clock and disrupt sleep. While the research is not conclusive, many people report less eye strain and improved sleep when using blue-light blocking glasses while on electronics. No need to go for expensive ones; you can get a decent 3-pack for $10. There are also free alternatives including night mode and apps to reduce blue-light emission.
Spending time outdoors is a wonderful alternative to sitting in front of a screen all day. Try to take a break at least once a day to enjoy the beauty of nature. But remember to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Blue light, which is found in higher concentrations on digital devices, is different from ultraviolet light, which is found in sunlight. Never look at the sun directly.
The omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA is touted for its many health benefits, including keeping your eyes properly moist and your vision clear. Foods rich in Omega-3 include fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.), flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans.
- Take frequent breaks – remember 20/20/20
- Try artificial tears
- Block/reduce digital blue light
- Get plenty of natural light
- Eat omega-3 rich foods.
Finally, Dr. Kazlas reminds everyone to visit their eye doctors regularly. So, don’t forget to see your eye doctor!
“Practical Eye Care for the Digital Age” Poster
To help you remember the key take-aways, Lexington Lions Club has designed a poster titled Practical Eye Care for the Digital Age.
You can find the poster here, including:
- The digital poster, perfect for posting on websites and sharing with others;
- A home printing version optimized to save ink;
- Poster for professional printing (three sizes), perfect for schools, eye doctor offices and other organizations.
Lexington Lions Club and LexMedia also hosted a fireside chat with Dr. Kazlas, and the video will be available on youtube and LexMedia.org.
This campaign is co-sponsored by Lexington Lions Club, Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and LexMedia.
Special thanks to Dr. David Hunter, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief and Richard Robb Chair in Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital, for his support of this project. Dr. Hunter is also the Professor of Ophthalmology and Vice Chair at Harvard Medical School.
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