Digital eye strain: a 21st century condition

Discussing screen use and how optometrists can help provide professional advice for patients

working from home animation

As a member of the OT  team, like many others across the country, I have had to navigate the challenges of working from home and consider how much time I spend on digital devices.

In pre-COVID-19 times, I worked from the AOP offices based in Farringdon, London. I would often take unintentional breaks away from the computer screen in the form of meetings or even simply making a cup of tea in the kitchen and having a chit chat with colleagues. However, times have changed and so have our work-life balance and habits.

At present, a typical day for me includes checking emails, Microsoft Teams video calls, exercise Zoom sessions, watching television, and FaceTime with my family and friends. I also spend an extended amount of time on social media and on the internet, surprisingly mainly for work purposes. The list seems to be endless.

Juggling my screen time between work and social events hasn’t been a conscience decision and often something I confess, I neglect. Towards the end of the day my eyes feel heavy and tried, a cue to book my annual sight test.

This raises some important questions. Firstly, how many patients feel the same and ignore these symptoms? Secondly, how can you enhance and raise awareness about the importance of sight tests amongst the public?

According to a recent Ofcom news report there has been “a surge in screen time during lockdown…and the UK spend 40% of their day watching TV and online video services as many people working from home have increased their screen use.”

There are even research studies questioning digital screen time usage during the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of a further myopia boom.

In an attempt to address and understand the attitudes of optometrists in the UK and Ireland towards digital eye strain, Aston University has recently launched a survey.

In the introduction to the online questionnaire researchers highlight that the use of digital devices at work and in everyday life has become “ubiquitous,” with some studies indicating that the prevalence of digital eye strain among the population is 50%.

“Optometrists are likely to examine patients with digital eye strain on a daily basis and are well placed to provide professional advice on its management options,” the researchers state.

If you would like to take part, you can find a link to the survey in our news story here. 

The conversations around digital eye strain and changing eye health challenges highlight the importance of regular sight tests and how optometrists can increase awareness amongst the public.

In a recent survey, by Johnson & Johnson Vision, found a “disconnect” between how the public views the importance of eye health and how regularly they attend an eye examination.

We asked Dr Ioannis G. Tranoudis, senior director EMEA professional education solutions at Johnson & Johnson Vision what initial steps practices could take to enhance patient awareness around regular eye examinations.

Dr Tranoudis highlighted: “Through lockdown, I saw a lot of eye care professionals increase their communications with patients through digital channels including email updates, newsletters, through their websites, and social media.”

Ironically, the way to reach patients and enhance awareness might just be in a digital format. Afterall, isn’t this where so many of us spend our time?