Screen Queens: Eye Strain and Mental Health featuring QOSS


Let’s take a moment and think about all the work our eyes do for us. Obviously, most people use them every day. In 2020, however, the way we’re treating our eyes isn’t exactly setting us up for 2020 vision in the future. With all this time inside, we’re looking at screens more than ever. If your eyes are hurting more than usual in quarantine, there’s some research backing why you might be feeling that way. Today on Glass, we’re chatting with the QOSS about optometry and eye health, as well as a member of our very own team who relies on her glasses to get through the day, Anahita Ebrahimi.

Eye See You: Talking Eye-Health with the Queensland Optometry Student Society

With all of us looking at screens so much, who best to talk to than optometrists? We sat down with the Queensland Optometry Student Society to talk eye health, computer usage and how they’re doing in quarantine.
What is it like studying optometry online?
The experience of studying optometry online varies depending on year level. As of second year, there are certain aspects of the course that require physical practice with equipment which, in most cases, is not possible with current social distancing. However, the invention of such programs as the Virtual Refractor make is possible to practice how to determine a patient’s prescription online! Our Head of School and lecturers have been working hard to find ways to allow us to do as much of our education online as possible. The outcome of that work for fifth years has included online tutorials, assignments where we reflect on past patients as well as assignments that cause us to reflect on how we incorporate research into practice as optometrists.
What do we know about screen usage and how it affects the eyes?
We know that screen usage can lead to what is referred to as computer vision syndrome, referring to symptoms such as eye strain and dry eye. Fortunately, all of these factors can be managed with a couple of simple strategies! The eye strain usually results because our eyes are far more relaxed looking further away and when we use electronic devices for long periods of time, the distance from the devices to our eyes tends to be closer than is ideal, causing our eyes to work harder and become strained. To avoid this problem, simply ensure that your working distance is at least arm’s length. Furthermore, dry eye is a product of multiple things but one is that while we are focussing on a screen, we tend to unconsciously blink by 5 or more blinks less than usual, leading to the evaporation of our tears that cover and protect our eyes, making them feel less comfortable and dry. Taking breaks from screen usage every 20 minutes is a way to alleviate this issue.
How do I know if my computer usage is damaging my eyes? What are some easy changes students can make to help ease their screen usage?
The important fact to note is that there is no evidence to say that computer usage will permanently damage your eyes and computer vision syndrome is a temporary condition that can be relieved with measures such as those listed above in addition to maintaining adequate lighting and posture to avoid headaches and neck/back strain. There is evidence to suggest that prolonged periods of near work such as computer usage can lead to short-sightedness in children but the numerous studies that have been done on the topic all point toward maintaining a distance of arm’s length, taking regular 20 minute breaks, maintaining adequate lighting in addition to spending some time outdoors as protective. In addition, if none of these measures are working to totally relieve computer vision syndrome, there are anti-fatigue glasses designed to help take some of the strain off your eyes and reduce the glare of the computer screen which you could consult your optometrist about.
Where should students go to find out more about eye strain and screens?
There is an excellent article by Provision called, “What causes digital eyestrain,” which is worth a read. Also Optometry Australia released this pamphlet which also discusses the topic in a clear and succinct manner:
Tell us about what your society is up to while WFH?
Whilst in self-isolation, QOSS has been trying to find ways to engage our members which has included QOSS bingo where students cross the bingo squares that they can relate to as optometry students and there are exciting prizes up for grabs; baking at home and posting the results so that students can donate what they would have paid to have a piece to worthy organisations such as the Foodbank; working with industry professionals to help advertise for online seminars or information sessions, and, the refining of our new website and organisation of our 2020 QOSS merchandise which is soon to be released!
Tell us a little bit about QOSS:
QOSS is the Queensland Optometry Student Society, run by optometry students for their colleagues and friends in order to serve as the link between students, university and industry and facilitate a range of events, products and services to make the year memorable.

Vision Chats with Glass Editor: Anahita Ebrahimi

Well, it turns out our mothers may have been right when they nagged us about all that ‘computer time’ being bad for our health – to an extent.

It’s more-so that the extended amounts of time we are straining our eyes, coupled with poor vision that is not being properly taken care, could impact your mental health. Poor vision has an impact on every task you undertake in your day-to-day. For me personally, losing my glasses would mean I cannot do the simplest tasks such as the drive to work, be able to clearly see a movie/TV show, work on my laptop or walk through the city and be able to recognize people who are two meters away from me. For some others, these tasks can become impossible. Social withdrawal and disengagement arising are linked to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Managing ‘computer vision syndrome’ has already been discussed, however, sometimes when digital eyestrain is yet to be treated, the symptoms can cause substantial discomfort. Headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and blurred vision can be all too familiar for those with poor vision. Realistically speaking, a lot of our time is spent on screens – whether this is the computer at work, your phones, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

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