We saw it coming and yet we decided to ignore it. A latest global study indicates that Indians have suffered maximum damage to vision because of increased screen time, courtesy COVID-induced lockdowns.
Doctors have time and again warned that extra exposure to smartphones, laptop and TV could be detrimental for our health, especially eyes. However, two lockdowns since last April and closed schools have compelled us to pursue education, do work and seek entertainment online.
The study, conducted by UK’s Feel-Good Contacts, says that about 25% of India’s population (28 crore) now have weakened eyesight mainly because of too much screen time.
In 2020, Indians had an average screen time of 6 hours and 36 minutes per person, which is high but still less when compared with US (7.11 hours), Brazil (10 hours), New Zealand (6.39 hours) and Philippines (10.56 hours). However, the impact on eyes was found to be huge, mainly because of India’s large population.
After the first lockdown last year, doctors had warned that more screen time could result in children getting spectacles. Their assessment was based on the fact that children had already started complaining about refractive errors, redness, dryness, itchiness and sore eyes.
Online classes and limits on outdoor sports because of the pandemic are taking a toll on the tender eyes of kids, who seem to have very few options to engage and entertain themselves.
An ophthalmologist said that he has registered a 30 per cent rise in children consulting him with complaints like watery eyes, excessive strain or tiredness. Complaints of dryness or itching in eyes are common too.
How to protect your eyes?
- Eat food which includes vitamins C and E, zinc, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids. Of course, there is no compensation for sound sleep. To get a good sleep, maintain a gap of an hour between the end of screen time and sleep.
2. Make a schedule to limit screen time. Discipline is the key though.
3. Dim the screens of all devices and illuminate the room well. Avoid using any device in the dark.
4. Avoid using any device in the open because ultraviolet radiation from the sun reflects from your smartphone or laptop screen and directly hits our eyes, causing damage to the cornea.
5. The screen should be placed such that you look slightly down at it, not up. There should be no glare on the screen.
6. Visit your ophthalmologist at least one in 6 months. For children, routine eye check-up is a must.
7. Find ways to engage yourself in outdoor activities. Allow children to pursue hobbies of their choices. Speak to children about the harmful effects of continuous exposure to gadgets.
8. The 20-20-20 formula: Every 20 minutes, remember to look away at any object which is about 20 feet away for more than 20 seconds. This will reduce eye strain.