Online gadgets have become an integral part of most people’s activities throughout the day, whether for work, entertainment, or staying connected with friends and peers. This dependence on gadgets has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and led to increased incidents of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain, experts warned during a webinar conducted on ‘Eye health care and online practices during COVID-19’.
Dr Saurabh Choudhry, CEO and HOD, ICARE Eye Hospital and PG Institute, explained how CVS impacts those working on screens for long hours. “It is a new type of disease that has started to take shape as more and more people started working in front of computer screens and felt symptoms like redness, irritation, difficulty in focusing and others,” he said while addressing a panel discussion during the webinar.
The webinar was organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) as part of their ongoing series on health – ‘Illness to Wellness’.
Dr G.V. Divakar, Managing Director, Divakar’s Speciality Hospital, and Asian Research & Training Institute for Skill Transfer, stated that use of online devices such as phones and laptops has significantly gone up during the pandemic by almost 75 per cent. He also said that the increase of screen time is occurring in both children and adults due to online classes and work from home, respectively, leading to CVS.
“Prolonged exposure to screens can lead to developing symptoms of CVS where patient gets headaches, redness etc. When you look at the screen for too long, the blinking rate reduces and can lead to symptoms of dry eyes. To avoid that, we should reduce the duration of screen time, resolution of the screen and can also use supplements like eye drops,” he said.
Dr Divakar suggested that gaps in between the sessions are mandatory for children to avoid developing CVS. “The normal screen time should be maximum 30-35 minutes at a stretch. It is advisable that teachers take classes for 30-35 minutes and then give a gap of 15 minutes before resuming classes,” he advised.
Meanwhile, experts advised a 20-20-20 rule to avoid CVS consequences for professionals who are working from home.
“For professionals, we suggest that you take a break every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away. This will relax the muscles and then they can start working again. You can also opt for automated methods where the screen goes dark every 20 minutes and you are forced to take a little break. This will enhance blood circulation to the eyes, neck and back so everything is taken care of by following the 20-20-20 rule. Other factors like the lighting of the room, position of the body, quality of the computer screen also need to be taken care of,” Dr Choudhry said.
Besides, other panelists also highlighted the need for more awareness among the public to acknowledge the eye conditions. Dr Mahipal Singh Sachdev, Chairman & Medical Director, Centre for Sight and President of All India Ophthalmological Society, said that parents should let their children undergo eye tests as early as one year after birth.
“It should be well established that after a child is born, after it is one year old and for every year it is in school, it should undergo eye checkups and wear glasses if needed. If you need glasses for refractive error correction and do not wear it then it can affect your performance in school and college. Awareness needs to be increased as it is only in India that the largest cause of blindness is cataract, a completely reversible disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, Anil Rajput, Chairman, ASSOCHAM CSR Council, added to the discussion by speaking on best practices to keep our eyes protected. “It is extremely important that we avoid touching the mucous membrane of our mouth, nose and eyes as any contamination on the surface of any object can easily pass on the virus through this mode. It has also been suggested that glasses provide a shield by protecting the eyes from any droplets that can enter through the eye,” he said.
The experts also stated that COVID-19 should not be a reason for patients to postpone their checkups and eye surgeries as eye hospitals are taking all precautions to keep patients and caregivers safe.