Eye strain, how you can prevent it and the 20-20-20 rule

30 Apr 2021

Spending long periods looking at computer, phone, or tablet screens can strain your eyes, and with over a year of Lockdown behind us, chances are that at some stage you’ve felt the stresses associated with this.

To help alleviate the challenges associated with eye strain, a British eye health charity, Fight for Sight, is recommending people learn the "20-20-20" rule to protect their sight, a simple yet effective tool that everyone can put to use.

But just what is the 20-20-20 rule and how can you use it? Optilase is Ireland’s No. 1 Private Eye Clinic, with locations throughout the Island of Ireland. It’s safe to say they know eye strain when they see it, so here’s what they think about the condition, their thoughts on the 20-20-20 rule and their advice on how you can alleviate eye strain while still using your screen as much as you need to.

What is eye strain?

Eyestrain is a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as while driving long distances or staring at computer screens and other digital devices, and there’s no doubt about it that it can be annoying and at times debilitating. But it usually isn't serious and goes away once you rest your eyes or take other steps to reduce your eye discomfort. The symptoms include eye watering, blurred vision, dry eyes, headaches and eye redness.

Now more than ever as a nation we’re experiencing more eye strain, and that’s due to the pandemic and a rise overall in how we’ve been using screens during this difficult time.

In fact, a British survey found that out of 2,000 people, half used screens more since Covid struck and a third (38%) of those believed their eyesight had worsened, a survey carried out by the charity suggested. The representative survey of 2,000 adults suggested one in five were less likely to get an eye test now than before the pandemic, for fear of catching or spreading the virus. People who took part in the survey reported difficulty reading, as well as headaches and migraines and poorer night vision.

So how can you minimise eye strain, is it as simple as having less screen time or are there other answers? The 20-20-20 rule can help.

What is the 20-20-20 rule?

The 20-20-20 rule was designed by Californian optometrist Jeffrey Anshel as an easy reminder to take breaks and prevent eye strain, according to the Optometry Times.

When following the rule, a person takes a 20-second break from looking at a screen every 20 minutes. During the break, the person focuses on an object 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles.The rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, a person should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Following the rule is a great way to remember to take frequent breaks. This should reduce eye strain caused by looking at digital screens for too long.

It sounds simple enough - but is it an easy rule to follow and what can help us to follow it?
There are some tips to make following the rule an easy discipline. For example;

● Set an alarm for every 20 minutes while working, as a reminder to take a break.

● Download an app developed to help people follow the 20-20-20 rule. There are a number of them available from the AppStore.

● Look out a window during the 20-second breaks. Judging a distance of 20 feet inside can be difficult, but focusing on a tree or lamppost across the street should work well.

If you’re finding this a little tedious there is a simple alternative that also works, close your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Also, try to remember to blink as this can prevent dry eye by encouraging tear production. It’s also a good idea to get up and go for a walk for a few minutes regularly, even if it’s just up to the kitchen for a glass of water. Remember that every break you can give your eyes will benefit it.

Optilase, Ireland’s No.1 Private Eye Surgery provider can help if your eyes are feeling the strain of too much work and not enough play

Preventing eye strain - easy tips to give you relief at home

One simple yet effective way to reduce eye strain is to get outside and take as many short screen breaks as you can throughout the day. Taking regular screen breaks is essential as it gives your eyes a chance to look into the distance and blink, and the more you do this the better - remember you only need short screen breaks - in fact research suggests that these are more effective than longer breaks.

Do you need an excuse to get out for a walk and get some fresh air? Being outdoors can help us in so many ways not just with our eyes - but heading out for some fresh air is a great way of relieving pressure on your eyes, as well as helping with your all-round physical and mental health.

Many top Ophthalmology experts say that blinking plays a really important role in keeping eye strain to a minimum, and this is why. Eyelids work like windshield wipers as they clear away dust and dirt and wash the surface of the eye with tear fluid. Blinking also clears stagnant fluid and sharpens your vision by keeping the cornea, or surface layer of your eye, moist. Without that moisture, the cornea becomes dry and the vision blurry. The problem is that we blink less often when we read from a screen, according to many studies. Some researchers also suggest that more of our blinks are incomplete when using a screen, with the upper and lower eyelids failing to fully connect. That can leave your eyes itchy, dry and infection-prone.

It’s time to take that short screen break, or to stop working on your screen every once in a while - and close your eyes completely.

Experts say your screen should be about an arm's length, or 40 to 75cm from your face.
Getting the distance right is particularly tricky with laptops which are often too close to the user's eyes. If the screen is too close, you risk continually overworking your eye muscles, if it's too far away you'll struggle to see small details. Use an external keyboard to help you if you can, an external monitor can also help - and talk to your employer as many are willing to provide equipment to staff working from home.

It's not a good idea to work on a smartphone or a tablet for long periods because the text is too small. While there is no ideal size that suits everyone, you should find a font size that's most comfortable for you for reading. Adjusting the brightness of your screen so it matches the level of the surrounding light is another good way to avoid eye strain. If you can, avoid working in a dark room with a bright screen. Experts say dark text on a light background is generally better for your eyes than light text on a dark background.

When to see a Doctor

If eye strain persists after you’ve tried using the rule and other methods of prevention you should see a Doctor, who can check for underlying conditions such as chronic dry eye.
Your Doctor may need to evaluate your vision and test the level of moisture in your eyes. When making recommendations, the doctor will take your occupation, lifestyle and overall eye health into account.

Call Optilase today

Need more advice on looking after your eyes? Optilase are Ireland’s No.1 Private Eye Clinic offering services such as Laser Eye Surgery, Reading Vision Correction and Cataract Surgery.

Optilase offers a top customer experience for every customer that walks through their door, from start to finish. In fact, Optilase is Ireland’s only eye surgery provider to be rated as five star on both customer and clinical patient review websites.

Testament to the patient care and services Optilase provide is the fact that many of our patients come to Optilase after a recommendation from a friend or family member. The company has also had a large number of recommendations from GPs, Optometrists, Optical Chains and Ophthalmologists, proving that the experience that you get in Optilase really is thoroughly professional and market leading.

So why is the team in Optilase still Ireland’s No.1 Private Eye Clinic after twenty years? As a proud, family-owned Irish business they have a brilliant team of medical professionals, all of whom are focused on providing the very best eye treatment available, using the latest and most sophisticated technology.

Optilase has performed over 50,000 eye surgeries since its inception in the market - making it a household name across Ireland that can be trusted. Their focus is on providing best in market care and support as you navigate through your journey to better sight. With Clinics all over Ireland, so no matter where you are across the country, you will have access to a premium Laser Eye Surgery, Cataract or Reading Vision Correction experience.

Check out Optilase’s YouTube channel today for more on these procedures and more about what your path to better sight will look like once you call the Optilase team.

Call the team in Optilase today for more information on any of their services, including a free consultation on +353 1 223 8821.

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