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Virtual learning & working from home hurting your eyes? Here's how to ease the strain

If you stare at a computer screen each day, you may have experienced it

NEW ORLEANS — It's not uncommon these days to find yourself staring at a computer screen for hours. Maybe you're working, or helping your child with distant learning. 

In any case, it's taking a toll on your eyes.

As students adapt to online coursework and adults adjust to meetings online, life these days looks more virtual. Sure the online world is helping us through these changing times, but starting at a computer screen every day isn't doing your eyes any favors.

"Since COVID has started I see a lot of people coming in with these specific complaints, especially towards the end of the day they'll notice it," Dr. Lena Al-Dujaili said.

Al-Dujaili is with LSU Health Ophthalmology and is a Glaucoma Specialist. She says those complaints are of eye fatigue or strain and cases are being reported in all age groups.

"Digital strain doesn't lead to permanent damage to the eye, but it does affect your quality in terms of how you feel about your eyes," she said.

Blurry vision, headaches, neck pain and eye dryness are all signs your eyes need a break.

"So I think it's not taking breaks and not blinking as much," she said. "The normal human eye usually blinks about 15 times each minute. When you're looking at something for a long time, I think it decreases 5-7 times."

It's why she recommends the 20/20/20 rule: where every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. It's something all eyes need, especially in children. Because studies have shown a rise in cases in recent years of kids becoming near-sighted, or not being able to see distance clearly.

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"Overall, it's probably linked to more screen time, but it's not specifically screen time that's causing it," she said. "It's kids being indoors more and not being outdoors as much."

And with no clear end in sight to living life virtually, Dr. Al-Dujaili says to monitor screen time, and give eyes a break when needed.

In addition to the 20/20/20 rule, you can blink more, match the screen's brightness to the room's brightness, and keep the screen at least an arm's length away from you. For those who wear contact lenses, give your eyes a break by switching to glasses (since lenses can dry eyes).