Life through a screen

An increase in screen time is causing a headache on a national scale.

woman on three screens
Getty/ Maryna Andriichenko

The news that more than one in three people have reported a deterioration in their eyesight as a result of increased screen time during the pandemic is likely to have rung the alarm bells for those working within the optical sector this week.

As revealed by Fight for Sight, the exponential increase in the use of screens in recent months has seen 39% of people reporting increased difficultly reading, 23% experiencing headaches or migraines, and 17% believing they have poorer night vision than previously.

Optometrists will have these issues to deal with in the coming months, alongside the other, more obvious, challenges that the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have brought about.

While high quality care remains a priority, optometrists need to be aware of their own eyesight as well as that of their patients – especially if they’re doing more remote consultations than normal as the lockdown continues. It can be easy to focus on patient solutions, whilst forgetting to also consider our own eye care.

The AOP has been offering advice for patients this week. Speaking to, head of clinical and regulatory, Henry Leonard, reminded readers about the 20-20-20 rule (spending 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away for every 20 minutes of screen time) whilst reiterating the importance of screen breaks and maintaining eye health during the pandemic.

Mr Leonard said: “Many of us have been using screens more during lockdown, and whilst there’s no evidence this causes any permanent harm to the eyes, it can certainly cause temporary problems like eyestrain and headaches.”

He recommended drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, remembering to blink to avoid dry and tired eyes, and wearing glasses and contact lenses when needed.

Over on the Telegraph, clinical director Dr Peter Hampson spoke about how screen time can be a recipe for dry and sore eyes. You can read the article by logging in or signing up for a free trial here.

Obviously, avoiding screens is very unlikely to be an option at the moment – or indeed, at any time in the near future. With 49% of Fight for Sight’s respondents saying that their screen time has increased since the pandemic began, it’s clear that eye care is something that many will need a reminder of. Don’t forget about your own eyes while you’re advising patients on the best care for theirs, though.