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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 19 January, 2020

‘Take 20-second screen breaks’: 6 simple ways to boost your eye health, from an expert

And yes, a smartphone does count as a screen.

Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

YOUR EYESIGHT IS something you might take for granted – until you have a problem with it. However, like the rest of your body, your eyes can greatly benefit from preventative care. 

Many problems you might encounter with your eyes, like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, can’t be totally prevented, but when caught early, the damage can be mitigated and sight loss often prevented. 

Kerril Hickey, Chairman of Specsavers Ireland, offered several helpful tips that can help you keep your eyes healthy, from visiting an optician regularly to detect symptoms before they cause major problems, to taking short breaks from screens throughout the day to let your eye muscles rest.

To keep your eyes in tip top shape, start with these small steps. 

1. Take screen breaks – even from your mobile phone

Many of us spend hours each day at a computer screen, and then even more hours in the evening on a mobile phone. Hickey pointed out that you’re likely to blink much less while looking at a screen, which can leave your eyes feeling dry and sandy.

He said, “When you’re focusing on a screen, your pupils get smaller and you’re pulling your reading muscles in your eye so you can see the screen.” He suggested:

Take routine breaks away from the computer, only for 20 seconds. Look away and far out the window – the further away you look, the more relaxed your eye will be. If you look 100 yards out, your eyes are in a straight position, and your muscles completely relaxed. Then you should blink for those 20 seconds, to re-hydrate the eye.

2. Get regular eye check-ups with an optician

Hickey explained that getting a regular check-up for your eyes, even if you don’t wear glasses and aren’t experiencing symptoms, is an important way to ensure eye-related problems are caught early. 

The first thing we recommend for everyone to have their eyes tested routinely. Finding out the overall good health of the eyes is critical. With a lot of cases, the patient might not be aware of something that’s going on with their eyes. You can have conditions that are symptom-less and progressive, like glaucoma, and then you get to a stage where you come in and your eyes are already damaged.

Glaucoma is a condition that can creep up on you without any signs or symptoms, often caused by a painless rise in pressure inside the eye. This rise in pressure can lead to  gradual but irreversible damage to nerve fibres and may lead to tunnel vision if left untreated.

Fortunately, there are treatment options for glaucoma, but the earlier it’s picked up the better.

shutterstock_547303552 Source: Shutterstock/leungchopan

3. And maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle

“The eye is actually part of your brain, so good health is so important,” said Hickey. Both stress and tiredness can adversely affect your eyes, so working toward a rested, relaxed lifestyle is a good place to start when taking care of your eyes.

Things like giving up smoking and eating a balanced diet are also good steps toward better eye health. 

4. Don’t bother with blue light glasses

While blue light glasses are marketed to cut down on the glare of computer and mobile phone screens, Hickey says there isn’t enough scientific evidence to back them up, “There is no scientific foundation to those that they actually help with eye strain.”

Instead, he suggested visiting an optician to find out whether you might benefit from a prescription that will help take some of the strain off your eyes if they are looking at a screen for long periods of time. Prescription glasses can help your eyes focus with less strain; if you already have a prescription, it might need to be adjusted.

5. But polarised sunglasses are a smart bet

However, Hickey did suggest that people protect their eyes from UV rays, whether it’s sunny outside or not. 

Make-up and moisturizers have UV protection standard, but we forget about the eyes. If it’s a sunny day, you should have proper sunglasses on with proper UVA and UVB rays. Polarised are really good because they cut out the UV rays that can cause earlier cataracts and macular degeneration.

If you wear glasses regularly, make sure that they have a coating that will protect your eyes from UVA and UVB, for when you’re outside on cloudy days that don’t require sunglasses.

shutterstock_404213716 Source: Shutterstock/G-Stock Studio

6. And don’t ignore even slight eye symptoms

Hickey explained that many people erroneously accept changes in their eyesight or increased symptoms as a part of aging. “We see people who give up reading because their eyesight gets worse, when that’s not necessary at all,” he said.

Any changes in the colour of your eye or the function of your eyesight should be checked by an optician. Hickey adds, that even small symptoms can be lessened with eye drops or gels, or an altered prescription. 

Specsavers has recently introduced hospital-quality OCT (optical coherence tomography) scans to stores across Ireland. Patients can now avail of technology that can detect treatable eye conditions, potentially preventing sight loss and damage before it happens. To learn more about the OCT technology and book an appointment at your local Specsavers location, visit www.specsavers.ie

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