COVID-19 and the accommodations needed by the virus are taking a toll on our eyes. Here are our top 7 tips for keeping your eyes as healthy as possible during the pandemic:
1. Drink water to reduce dry eye symptoms and discomfort
Wearing a face mask and working at a computer can both result in dry eye symptoms.
When the mouth and nose are covered with a mask, breath can rise toward the eyes and dry them out. People who spend time staring at a computer or digital screen — a practice that has increased since the start of the pandemic — can also experience dry eye symptoms due to a lower rate of blinking.
In order to avoid dehydration and keep your eyes properly hydrated, health professionals recommend that you drink at least six to eight 8-ounce servings of water every day. Your eye doctor may suggest using artificial tears or prescribe another dry eye treatment.
2. Make adjustments to your screen time
As we spend more time stuck at home, many of us are also spending more time in front of computers, tablets and phone screens.
Studies have shown that people who look at screens blink much less than they do at other times. The reduced blink rate often leads to dry eye syndrome, whose symptoms include blurry vision and dry, itchy, irritated eyes. Digital eye strain, which can cause headaches, eye fatigue and neck and shoulder pain, is another concern.
Tips on how to reduce symptoms include:
Adjust the distance you sit from your computer screen. According to eye doctors, the ideal distance from your eyes to the monitor is somewhere between 40 and 70cm, depending on the size of the monitor. You should also place your monitor slightly below eye level so that you’re looking slightly downwards at the center of the monitor at about a 20-degree angle.
Take scheduled screen breaks. Set an alarm so that you can remember to give your eyes a rest by getting away from your screen every 20 minutes or so. Take a walk and look around, to give your eyes a chance to “stretch.”
Adjust lighting and contrast to match your surroundings. Uneven lighting between the screen and your surroundings, and poor contrast can strain your eyes. Don’t place computer and television screens in front of an outside window to prevent the sun from shining in behind the screen. Also be sure to use “night mode” on your computer, tablet or smartphone in dark environments. This will automatically adjust screen brightness, color and contrast to optimum levels for viewing in the dark.
3. Ease Eye Strain With Simple Eye Exercises
Being stuck at home during the pandemic also creates more opportunities for increased time reading, watching television or doing other activities that require concentrated near vision. Extended time on these activities can cause eye strain, headaches, blurry vision and more.
The following eye exercises can help relieve eye strain:
The figure-eight. Start out looking at the floor. Focus on a point around 10-15 feet away from where you’re sitting, and trace a figure-eight pattern with your eyes. After 30 seconds, reverse the direction of your figure-eight. Repeat this twice.
Moving near-vision focus. For this exercise, you simply hold your finger an inch or so in front of your eyes and focus. Then, slowly begin to move your finger away while maintaining focus. Once your finger is at arm’s length, stop. Give your eyes a 10-second break. Then re-focus on your finger at arm’s length, and slowly bring it back in, again maintaining focus all the way in.
Moving distance focus. This exercise is similar to the previous one, except you’ll now focus on an object roughly a foot away from you, and slowly shift your focus to an object 15 to 20 feet away. This exercise works best if repeated a few times in a row.
4. Wash Your Hands
Our hands are our primary tools for interacting with the world around us. We’re constantly touching, holding and grabbing things as we’re out and about. So, it should be no surprise that our hands are among the most bacteria- and virus-laden parts of our entire body.
When our hands come into contact with our eyes, viruses and bacteria can sometimes be introduced that may cause infection, including pink eye.
The COVID-19 coronavirus can be detected in the conjunctiva, the front part of the eye. Even though this could be a source of COVID infection, there is no conclusive evidence yet that the virus will spread from the eye to infect the lungs or other parts of the body..
Especially when you’ve been out and about, it’s important to keep your hands clean with frequent hand washing and use of [sanitizer]. Use a clean tissue or handkerchief instead of your finger or hand to wipe away irritants or excess tears.
5. Be Cautious With Your Contact Lenses
If you wear contact lenses to correct your vision, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing your lenses.
Proper cleaning and storage of your contact lenses is essential to prevent a build-up of pathogens that can cause infection. Be sure to follow your eye doctor’s instructions exactly regarding care of your lenses and eyes, and wear your contact lenses according to their intended schedule, and not past their expiry date. Monthly contact lenses should be changed monthly and dailies should be changed daily.
You may also consider simply switching to eyeglasses until the pandemic has passed, in order to simplify your health considerations.
6. Eat Right For Good Eye Health
It can sometimes be tempting to calm the stress of the pandemic by relying on comfort foods. However, it’s also important to make sure that you’re eating right to stay healthy. Foods that will help keep your eyes in good shape include:
Salmon, tuna and other fatty fish. These and other kinds of seafood are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for preventing dry eye symptoms and long-term risk of macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Dark leafy greens. Vegetables such as kale and spinach are high in vitamins C and E. These are great for maintaining long-term eye health and preventing eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Orange fruits and vegetables. The orange color of foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe comes from a type of vitamin A called beta carotene. This vitamin helps improve night vision.
7. Don’t Wait Until the Pandemic is Over to Visit Your Eye Doctor
COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. At the same time, it’s essential for you and your family’s eye health to maintain regular visits with your [eye_ doctor] so that any problems can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Our eye care team at Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses is aware of the difficulties presented by the pandemic and has worked hard to create a safe place for you to come for all your eye care needs. If you have any questions or concerns about how we’ve prepared our office to meet these challenges, give us a call at 505-806-1432
For more info on how you can keep your eyes healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, visit Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses in Albuquerque and surrounding communities.
Q: Why is it important for my child to have a comprehensive eye exam every year?
- A: For children, annual exams can ensure that any problems with their eye health and vision will be identified and treated quickly, and won’t impede their ability to learn. This extends beyond simply checking for 20/20 vision.Unless they’re treated early, childhood conditions such as amblyopia and strabismus can cause severe vision problems later on. Other conditions, such as convergence insufficiency and eye-tracking problems, can cause blurry vision and headaches, and make it difficult to read or do homework for long periods of time.Because children’s eyes are constantly changing, it is also important to come in for an annual eye exam to see if they need glasses or contacts, or to ensure that their existing prescription is still correct.
Q: How can my eye doctor help me reduce symptoms of computer vision syndrome?
- A: The first step is coming in for a comprehensive eye exam. Your eye doctor will thoroughly examine your (or your child’s) eyes and discuss ways to alleviate computer vision syndrome, also called digital eye strain.Your doctor may recommend specialty computer glasses. These glasses may include specific prescription lenses and prisms to help reduce or prevent eye strain and other symptoms by allowing the eyes to function without excessive effort and strain. Computer glasses also have special anti-glare and anti-blue light coatings that further reduce harmful light rays from entering your eyes.
Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses. Visit Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.