IOWA Magazine | 03-04-2021

Ask An Expert: How Do You Avoid Eye Strain From Screen Time?

University of Iowa optometrist Khadija Shahid shares tips to avoid common eye problems caused from increased time in front of the computer and TV.
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During the pandemic, Khadija Shahid (16MPH), a University of Iowa optometrist and assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, has seen many patients with eye concerns caused from spending increased time at home in front of the TV, computer, or cell phone.

Khadija Shahid PHOTO: SUSAN MCCLELLEN/UI HEALTH CARE Optometrist Khadija Shahid sees a patient at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

"With social distancing policies in place, there are limited recreational activities available outside of the home, and this has increased screen time above and beyond working screens," she says.

Here are Shahid’s tips to avoid common eye problems, such as strain, fatigue, irritation, burning, redness, dry eyes, blurred vision, double vision, and headaches.

Use the 20/20/20 rule.

For every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break that involves looking at least 20 feet away. This allows the eyes to return to a more natural posture.

Use lubricating eye drops.

More screen time often means less blinking, which can lead to dry eye. Artificial tears can alleviate dry, irritated eyes.

Stay hydrated.

Dehydration can cause or worsen dry eye. Regularly drink water while working on the computer.

Consider blue light filters.

Blue light exposure may interfere with sleep patterns and could potentially harm retinal cells. Avoid screen time 2-3 hours before bed. Consider blue light blockers and/or apps to limit blue light exposure from screens at night.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule.

The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Incorporate movement throughout the day, maintain the same wake and sleep times (even on weekends), and keep work and home spaces separate, if possible.

Include antioxidants and healthy fats in your diet to improve eye health.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring in colorful fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats can be found in nuts, seeds, leafy greens, vegetables, fish, and eggs.

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Dr. Shahid shares what she enjoys about being an optometrist at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

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