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Optometrists see rise of eye issues post lockdown

Optometrists are seeing an influx of people experiencing eye issues post lockdown, thought to be linked to working from home and extra screen time.

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The issues are believed to be linked to extra screen time and working from home. Source: 1 NEWS

Experts say while dry and strained eyes aren't uncommon, conversations about it have definitely become more prevalent.

1 NEWS took to the street in Auckland to ask people about their screen time during lockdown.

One woman said she was spending 14 hours a day behind a screen, and her eyes became very sore.

Another said their screen time gave them “tension headaches, as well as feeling quite blurry with vision when you look away from the screen”.

The President of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists, Rochelle van Eysden says, “I definitely don’t think anyone’s eyes have been 'ruined' over lockdown but there has been a spike in dry eye issues and eyestrain from the change of working environment while working from home”.

Pre-covid research found up to 50 per cent of adults and 80 per cent of teens are affected by digital eye strain, and dry eye disease affects 29 per cent of the population.

While there’s no post lockdown data yet, Adele Jefferies, who works as an optometrist for Matthews says, “whether it was mild or quite severe, there was definitely more discomfort”.

And the issues like dry eye disease aren’t likely to stop rising.

"We know it's getting more common and some of that is because of device use because we blink less and if we're not blinking as much there's some feedback loops that happen in terms of our tear flow and function," says Ms Jefferies.

But experts can help, and Ms Jefferies says, "it doesn’t mean you're always going to have to go away with big complex options, but because dry eye disease is chronic it makes sense to get a good assessment”.

“Same thing with computer work, we can work out an individualised plan to get the best out of your eyes”, she said.

She says there are some simple things people can try too.

“If we're talking about digital eye strain, the 20/20 rule is a good one. Basically doing breaks every 20 minutes, looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds”.

She also suggested “watching your working distances, which is how close you are to your devices, a really easy rule for all age groups is your knuckles to your elbow, that's as close as you want to hold something”.