5 health tips to help prevent eye strain during online learning

Karis Lee
  • You’re probably staring at screens a lot during Covid-19, so follow this advice from an eye doctor to keep your vision in top shape
  • Make sure to blink, study in a well-lit room, and take a break to move around every 30 minutes
Karis Lee |

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Studying in a dark room is a HUGE no-no!

Online learning has meant you could continue your studies during the Covid-19 pandemic. But it might not have been very comfortable to stare at your screen for hours every day.

Have you ever felt that your eyes feel sore, burning or itchy? Or maybe you’ve had a headache, blurred vision or neck pain, or felt that you could not keep your eyes open. If you’ve felt any of these things, you may be suffering from computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain.

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The condition is very common nowadays with studying and working from home. But you don’t have to suffer.

Young Post asked Dr Fiona Luk Oi-jing for some tips to help prevent the condition. Luk is an ophthalmologist – a doctor who treats eye diseases – at the Premier Medical Centre in Central.

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Blink more often

You may think that humans blink naturally. But researchers have found that we blink less than half as often as usual when we are focused on a screen. But blinking is very important.

“Blinking helps to distribute our tears evenly on our eye surface,” says Luk. “It can prevent our eyes from getting dry and help to maintain good vision.”

Make an effort to blink on purpose every 20-30 minutes, to make sure it’s happening.

Sure it sounds a little silly, but make sure you're blinking enough.

Keep it bright

If you close your curtains and don’t turn on the light in your room, there will be a big contrast between the light on your computer screen or other digital device, and the light around you. This can really harm our eyes.

“Very strong light can damage our retina. Ambient light [general lighting] is more important than the lighting on the screen,” Luk says.

Make sure that your room is well lit when you’re on your phone or computer to avoid straining your eyes.

A brightly-lit room is much better for your eyes than studying in the darkness.

Take a break, and get a move on

Luk recommends taking frequent breaks – at least a 20- to 30-second break every 20 to 30 minutes.

During this time, she says, you should look at a distant object out of your window – for example, a car on a flyover or a bird in the sky. This help your eye muscles to relax.

And while doing jumping jacks won’t help your eye health, there are some moves that can.

First, the eye roll. Close your eyes and roll them in circles. Repeat this move five to 10 times in each direction.

Second, look at an object that is far away, then at something that is closer. Repeat this a few times.

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Try blue-light glasses

While Luk says: “There is no evidence that blue light glasses can protect our eyesight,” she adds that they “do make our eyes less tired”, and help ease eye strain when looking at a screen. You can find them at optical shops.

Be aware, though, that there is also no scientific evidence that wearing blue-light glasses when using a computer prevents your short-sightedness from getting worse, Luk adds.

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Keep your distance

It’s important that your face isn’t too close to the screen, Luk says. “Students should maintain a distance of at least 30cm from books or tablets, and a minimum distance of 50cm from desktop computers.

“If students are too close to the computer screen, they will be straining their eye muscles. This can cause myopia.”

It is also important to keep your screen below eye level.

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