‘COVID eyes syndrome’ is one of the biggest health issues to come out of the pandemic, with the obvious exceptions being mental health issues and COVID19 itself. “COVID eyes is a term that relates to the strain the extra screen time has placed on people’s eyes during the pandemic,” says Brendan Howell, director of Arborvitae Health and Wellbeing.
Howell is somewhat of an expert on the topic as he’s seen demand for eye-health supplements skyrocket in 2022. “Different sources suggest that screen time has increased during the pandemic by as much as 40 percent on average,” Howell added.
“This means that people have been using their screens for a lot more time each day and this has impacted the health of their eyes. The most common problems include dry eyes, myopia, eye fatigue and blurred or fluctuating (momentarily) vision.”
We may not realise it, but our eyes are the most complex and intricately designed organs after the brain. 90 per cent of the information processed by our brain comes through the eyes so it is important that we take care of them.
“Many people also think that failing eyesight is an inevitable part of aging or eye strain. In reality, a healthy lifestyle and proactive management can significantly reduce the risk of eye health problems.” There are some tips and tricks to help maintain and improve eye health, particularly while we’re busy binging Stranger Things.
TAKE A BREAK
It sounds simple, but it is very important to give the eyes a break from the screen. Monitor your screen time and try and reduce the amount of time you spend in front of the screen, whether it be a laptop, phone or tablet. Use techniques such as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
MANAGE YOUR TIME
Most of us use screen time for working, socialising and entertainment. Unfortunately many people have become so glued to their screens during COVID that they don’t even leave to eat or take phone calls.
It is important to set some boundaries with your screen time. Ensure you don’t eat in front of your screen or take phone calls. Moving away will give your eyes a much-needed break from the blue light that is emitted from the screen.
FOCUS ON LIFESTYLE
Movement is good for our whole body including our eyes. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the optic nerve and the retina resulting in improved overall eye health and vision. This is especially so for people with glaucoma. Vision problems and eye disease also stem from issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
IMPROVE YOUR DIET
Some foods are beneficial for eye health such as fish, nuts, legumes, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. Opt for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some studies have found that fish oil can reverse dry eye, including dry eye caused by spending too much time in front of a screen. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Just like vitamin E, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is known to fight age-related eye damage.
While it is important to eat a balanced diet and include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it is not always possible to get all the nutrients we need.
Where possible, complement your diet with supplements to support eye health. Look for products that contain pycnogenol, the French maritime pine bark extract. Pycnogenol strengthens retinal capillaries to help control leakage of fluids and blood into the retina.