Extended use of mobile phones, laptops and television have impacted our eyes as we work, study and entertain at home; here are some tips to start moving to 20/20 vision again
Phones, laptops and TVs all emit harmful blue light. Anti-glare coatings like blue protect cut exposure to blue light, improve sleep and reduce eye strain. Picture Courtesy: Titan EyePlus
One sense organ that really went into overdrive and was the most used during the pandemic was the eyes. We were moving from screen to screen for professional, personal and social engagements, using laptops for office jobs or school classes, relaxing the mind watching television and socialising over Whatsapp and Facebook on our mobile phones. Let’s just say that we were caught in some sort of technology trap, swapping one gadget for another.
Pandemic 2020 had a major impact on the health of our vision. Says Aarti Nangia, HOD-Ophthalmology at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj: “Sedentary life, staying indoors, little exposure to sunlight and reduced physical activity have affected our overall health and immunity. But eyes were impacted the most as work from home involved using them on all kinds of display screens of laptops, computers, cell phones and television.”
So, how do we counter the impact of increased screen time? Says Jyoti Talwar, HOD-Eye, SRHC Hospital, Narela: “I always advise parents or anyone working on screens to function on a big screen instead of a phone. Go for a desktop or laptop with a large monitor for clarity. It lowers eye strain as the objects are more defined and comfortable to focus on. After working for an hour, go to the nearest window and focus on the farthest electric pole or tree you can see. The idea is to balance between your long-distance and your ‘near focus’ vision. When we are actively into “near work” or working on a computer, the balance between near and distance focus is lost, your muscles for close work are working overtime and that causes all these eye related issues.” Talwar advises getting a set of anti-glare glasses or an anti-glare coating on screens if you don’t wear glasses. Many computers and TVs today have inbuilt anti-glare screens.
AR coatings and anti-glare
Those who don’t wear glasses must go for a laptop screen protector which can be put on the computer monitor and will guard you against blue light. Those with myopia or hypermetropia can combat fatigue and eye strain with anti-reflective (AR) and anti-glare coating on their glasses. That way you will see, look and feel better in your eyeglasses.
Anti-reflective coating on glasses cuts glare and allows more light through to your eyes. Often in photos and certain environments, the light bouncing off your lenses makes it difficult to actually see your eyes. Any bright light or camera flash will reflect off your lenses. Anti-reflective lenses eliminate this glare so everyone can see your eyes. Your vision will be clearer and sharper, requiring you to strain or focus less in order to see. AR has improved substantially in the past decade, and has changed from a varnish that would come off the lenses, to becoming a core part of the lens, through a detailed heating process.
Says Sanjay Khanna of Vision Care: “There are three types of coating on glasses-electromagnetic insulation coating or EMI, UV or ultraviolet protected lenses, and blue block. Those without spectacles needn’t worry about anti-reflection coating, which is generally made of magnesium fluoride, but everyone must go for protection against UV as it harms the eye. Blue light is the strain-causing kind emitted from screens. Protect your eyes from it using blue block, blue protect or blue cut. Lenses with ‘blue protect’ plus anti-reflection coating can cost anything from Rs 450 to Rs 10,000, depending upon the nature of material and coating.”
Digital devices such as phones, laptops, tablets and TVs emit harmful blue light. Says Shalini Gupta, Marketing Head Eyewear Division Titan Company Ltd: “We see ads and a lot of communication that says block the blue. But the fact is that you shouldn’t cut out the blue light completely, just reduce it. Our eyes need all the colours and blue has a soothing impact on our sleep cycle as well. We need the blue. We just need to filter out the intensive or bad blue. During the pandemic, we widened our blue range at Titan. A pair of spectacles with this coating was competitively priced at Rs 999 for kids and Rs 1,199 for adults.”
Ultraviolet radiation is another eye villain. Buy photochromic or polarised lenses and always wear a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays which may damage your macula and cause cataract. If you choose contact lenses, make sure they offer UV protection. You can also wear hats or caps.
Opticians have seen a huge spike in the sale of powered sunglasses during the pandemic. Says Titan’s Gupta: “UV is as much an issue as blue. We did a study in top Indian cities and found that the UV index of most, including Delhi, is very high even when you step out on a very cloudy day. While people are concerned about blue light, they should be equally concerned about UV as it is so high that it’s like staring at the sun for a few hours.”
An eye for best practices
Both adults and children should be aware of the risk of myopia from the increased use of smartphones, tablets and computers. Eyes should be rested every 30 minutes. One should go out to the balcony or garden, and look at the horizon line to change the near focus to far, spend time with family and engage in different activities. Screen brightness should be optimal and not too bright. While brightness and distance should be set properly, the screen should be kept at eye level as well. Limit the use of gaming devices.
Never check your phone at night. Says Nangia of Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj: “When using any screen before bedtime, the blue light emitted disrupts the body’s natural melatonin hormone production. Melatonin is produced by the brain’s pineal gland and controls the body’s circadian rhythm or internal clock, which is naturally responsive to light. Melatonin levels increase as the sun sets and remain in that state for the rest of the night. As the sun rises, melatonin levels start to drop. This hormone reduction helps the body wake up naturally due to the burst of sunlight. The light that screens emit are in a spectrum similar to that of sunlight, but the blue light emission is what human circadian rhythms are most sensitive to. Studies have shown that the blue wavelengths are closely correlated to those from sunlight, which is what helps the body keep in sync with the sunrise and sunset. Therefore, using any screen prior to bedtime disrupts the body’s production of natural bedtime hormones, which can trick the brain into believing it is still daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.”
Blink consciously because the extended use of smart devices adversely affects blinking reflex. The duration that eyes remain open increases, and consequently dryness, known as xerophthalmia occurs. Symptoms such as redness, watering, sense of burning are more common in dry environments. Synthetic tears can provide relief if there is dryness in the eyes. Nikhil Sardar, Senior Ophthalmologist, Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai says almost 90 per cent of his patients required eye drops or artificial tears because of dryness of eye, as the blink rate reduced with WFH. He adds, “Blinking is a protective reflex given by God and in one blink, we replenish the tears over our cornea and eyes. When the blink rate goes down, our eyes become dry. Dryness is caused also by the reduction of the quality of tear cells. To improve the quality, you need to take some vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids that we get in oily fish and walnuts. You also have capsules that contain omega-3. Besides, you can take B-complex with zinc daily, vitamin C-500 mg and vitamin E.”
Refresh and Optive are common eye tear-replenishing solutions doctors recommend using 6-8 times a day. As for other eye issues, Sardar says 40 per cent of his patients needed a change in their prescription glasses because of the increase of refractive index during 2020. In some cases, special reading glasses were prescribed even for 30-year-olds.
Good eye health starts with the food on your plate. Eat eye healthy food such as fish like tuna, trout and herring for Omega-3 fatty acids; chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds, which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E; citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and pineapples rich in Vitamin C and E. Eggs are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin along with Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc. Carrots are high in beta-carotene and Vitamin A.
Prevention is always better than cure. Specialists say adults must analyse their daily screen time and replace some of the unnecessary usage with a physical activity or a social event. To mitigate the behavioural effects, adults are encouraged not to eat in front of a screen to avoid habit formation and to keep track of their screen use every day.
The impact on kids is even more than in adults, as they spend so much time on the screen even while their eyeballs are still developing. Longer screen time can lead to slower brain development. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends a screen time no more than an hour a day for children in age 3-5. A good remedy is to break up continuous blocks of screen time usage by stretching, maintaining good posture, and intermittently focusing on a distant object for 20 seconds. Remember the rule of 20-every 20 minutes take a break for 20 seconds, blink voluntarily for 20 seconds and look at something more than 20 feet away from your eye to relax your accommodation (the focussing apparatus of the eye).
The year 2020 saw most people spending on powered sunglasses and back-up spectacles. Says Titan’s Gupta: “Many people realised the importance of having a back-up pair of spectacles, when they damaged them. Old spectacles were invariably upgraded. Those who did not opt for a brand-new pair, would get a new pair of lenses on an old frame. But sales for contact lenses dipped.”
New innovations in eye care products included antiviral coatings and anti-fog lenses. Essilor has defog lenses by the name of Optifog priced between Rs 4,590-6,290. At almost breakneck speed, optical retailers launched anti-fog lenses, cloth and defog solutions that can be sprayed on the lens. Comfort ruled over style in eyewear. People have been upgrading the lens of spectacles to hi-quality lens with higher index.
Higher the index, lesser the thickness. The thinner the lens, the better the appearance. Says Chennai-based Ranjini Rao, a hi-powered myopic, “I bought a 1.74 ultra high index lens that cost me as much as Rs 15,990. Today I can pass off as a regular myopic and nobody would even notice. These look far better cosmetically when you move around in society rather than those big fat ugly looking spectacles. Also these expensive lenses have better quality so far as focus, clarity, spherical aberrations are concerned.”
In short, people are now more conscious about their health, especially eyes.
Simple rules for eye health are eat well, quit smoking, wear sunglasses, use safety eyewear, look away from the computer screen. And visit your eye doctor regularly.
After straining through the year 2020, do everything to relax, rest, pamper your eyes for 20/20 vision.
Table: Solutions that help you counter eye strain and maintain a healthy vision
|Eye Care||Description||Price Range (Rs)|
|Anti-Reflective Coating (applicable for all lenses, and can be paired with regular frames)||Protects eyes from high intensity reflections, and improves vision clarity||649-4,500|
|Anti-Glare Coating||Crizal has a range comprising Crizal UV, 360 Sapphire and Preventia||1,990-4,790|
|Anti-Fog Lenses||By adding a hydrophilic surface layer, water and mist (due to wearing mask) are repelled from the surface of the lens. Defog lenses by Essilor come by the name of Optifog||4,590-6,290|
|Laptop Screen Protector||Computer Monitor Protector -Blue Light and Anti-Glare Filter||200-2,000|
|Anti-Fog Solution||ZEISS Anti Fog solution when applied on the lenses helps to prevent fogging up of lenses due to change in moisture level||499|
|Anti-Fog Cloth||Titan, Nova, M-PRO Anti Fog Cloth can be applied on any spectacle lens and helps to prevent fogging up of lenses due to change in moisture level||250-399|
|Artificial Tears||Refresh, Optive eye drops help in restoring the natural moisture of your eyes using natural tears||120|
|Omega-3 Fish Oil Triple Strength with 1,000 mg of Omega||Improves immunity and eye sight||1,399|
|Zollyss Aloe Vera Cool Eye Mask (Value pack of 3)||Relieves stresses formed during working on computer, TV, long reading||499|
|Eye Gel Mask||Suitable for fatigued eyes, puffy eyes and dry eyes, it relieves eye tiredness||499|
Credits: Offline & Online Opticians