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How to protect your eyes from excessive screen time

Student staring at a screen
Sarah Powell
By Sarah Powell, Quality and Equality Manager Link to Sarah Powell's LinkedIn profile

Did you know that more than 1 in 3 people in the UK have reported deteriorating eyesight due to increasing screen time, during the pandemic?

The online poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Fight for Sight, shows that almost half (49%) of respondents’ screen time has increased since the pandemic began. One third (33%) said that it increased by more than two hours, up to four hours a day.

Shockingly, the poll also states that half (50%) of students and more than four in 10 (42%) working adults believe an increase in screen time during the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected their sight.

The good news is that this is unlikely to cause any permanent harm to your vision. However, it is very important that if you feel your vision has deteriorated, or if you are experiencing any problems with your eyes, you should contact your local optometrist to arrange an appointment.

So why is increased screen use a problem to your eyes?

Researchers state that you tend to blink less than half as often when you’re reading from a screen. Normally, you blink about 15-20 times a minute. That spreads tears evenly over your eyes, which keeps them from getting dry and irritated.

Also, the contrast of text against the background, the glare, and flickering from digital screens can be hard on your eyes.

What you can do to help yourself...

#Tip 1

Make sure your screen is 20-30 inches away from your face (arms length) and make sure your eyes are level with the very top of your monitor. When it comes to color combinations, your eyes prefer black text on a white or slightly yellow background.

Other dark-on-light combinations work fine for most people. Modern Android and Apple smartphones offer night mode features that make it easy to automatically reduce strain on your eyes at night. Turn the feature on, and your phone will automatically adjust screen settings depending on the time of day.

#Tip 2

Get your eyes tested every two years, even if you think your vision is fine. Remember, under Health and Safety legislation in the UK your employer must pay for your eye test if you use a screen for more than an hour a day.

#Tip 3

Try to adopt the ’20-20-20’ rule which recommends that for every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds. Following the rule should reduce eye strain caused by looking at screens for too long.

#Tip 4

Being fit and well can help your eyes stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure may help with eye health.

#Tip 5

Make sure your diet includes nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E. These may help to slow progress of age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration. Recommended foods for general good health include: green leafy vegetables, oily fish such as salmon, and citrus fruits.

Fight for sight