As the pandemic prompts more and more people to turn to screens, and for extended periods of time, experts are worried about the harm the situation can cause to the eye health of the population.
“We have a lot more optometric consultations, people who complain of visual fatigue or problems with their eyes, in particular due to a much more marked use of screens”, notes Dr. Langis Michaud, Director of the School. optometry University of Montreal.
He notes that many of these consultations are due to concerns about harmful effects on vision.
“What you have to understand is that the screen itself is not the issue: it is the way you use it. Often when people overuse the screen, it highlights a visual system defect that was there before, but was not symptomatic in current use, ”he explains.
To illustrate this, he compares the situation to that of a runner who, overnight, would dramatically increase his running distance without prior training, which, of course, could lead to injury.
“It’s the same with our eyes. It’s a delicate balance. The coordination of the two eyes to read is a complex mechanism that can easily get out of balance, ”explains Dr. Michaud.
An analogy also used by Dr. Éric Poulin, president of the Ordre des optométristes du Québec. He recalls that the problems related to the overuse of screens were already known, although the situation related to confinement may have exacerbated them.
Symptoms and solutions for eye health
Symptoms of this overuse of screens can include migraines and headaches, loss of concentration, sensitivity to light, blurred vision or dry eyes, among others.
“When we talk about health, we have to be careful. It is not something that damages the eyes per se. These are much more symptoms of fatigue linked to overuse, ”reassures Dr. Poulin, however.
However, he says the situation is different in children, where screens can be a risk factor for myopia. “For adults, it shows that there were already underlying problems,” he adds.
“When we put a little pressure, because we are on computers for a long time, the eyes will drop faster, will work less well together and it will develop the symptoms that we see.” – Dr Langis Michaud, director of the School of Optometry at UdeM.
Among the solutions, the two doctors propose to pay attention to the ergonomics of the workstation on which the screen in question is located, as well as to ensure that there is sufficient ambient light in the room. Frequent breaks, every 30 minutes, can also help.
“As soon as we are on a screen, our eyes blink less than normal and become dry much more easily. When they do, we have poorer vision, ”Dr. Michaud also points out.
The two doctors, however, suggest calling an optometrist to be able to properly identify the causes, which may differ from one individual to another.
“There is no single solution. We have to see what the problems are, ”concludes Dr Poulin.
Anti-blue light glasses, effective?
More and more places offer glasses designed to block blue light from screens. These can indeed have a beneficial effect, on a case-by-case basis …
“Blue filters can help with comfort and help the sleep cycle at the end of the day. Yes, that may be part of the answer, but it is not a panacea. It doesn’t solve everything if there are other underlying problems, ”summarizes Dr. Éric Poulin.
An opinion shared by Dr. Langis Michaud.
“Some will swear by it and can’t do without it, others don’t see a difference,” he remarks. I think it’s a little dangerous to jump to an answer that seems like magic without going through the analysis process to find what is causing the eye strain. ”