Caring for your eyes during this COVID-19 “circuit breaker” period

Caring for your eyes during this COVID-19 “circuit breaker” period 

Spending most of your time indoors and long hours on your digital devices during this work-from-home period or full home-based learning month for your children? Feeling eye discomfort or pain, fluctuating vision or tired, achy eyes? You may be suffering from eye strain.

Staring at computer screens or your handphone for prolonged periods can cause eye strain. But what if you can’t cut back on digital device use any time soon? What can you do about the related eye strain? Here are some tips that you can follow to protect your eyes if you work with computers all day:

Here are some pointers:

  1. Adjust your computer monitor.

Ensure that your monitor is directly in front of you at about an arm’s length away and also position the top of the screen such that is at or just below eye level. This is to ensure that you are not gazing upwards at the screen, as this may increase eye strain.


  1. Adjust the brightness and contrast.

Adjust the brightness of your screen to a comfortable level, which should be around the same brightness as your surroundings. It will also help to increase the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.

  1. Minimize glare.

Install an anti-glare or matt screen protector to reduce the glare from the light reflecting back from your monitor. If you wear glasses, purchase lenses with anti-reflective (AR) coating as this helps to reduce glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your spectacle lenses. You can also try to reduce glare from the external environment by closing the window shades or blinds, and if possible, position your computer such that the windows are to your side, instead of being in front of or behind your screen.

  1. Choose the right eyewear. 

If you are already presbyopic or “lao-hua”, see your ophthalmologist or optometrist to get a pair of prescription glasses to allow you to focus your eyes specifically at computer screen distance (intermediate distance, which is about 20-26 inches away from your face). Some people may prefer to use multifocal lenses to have the ability to shift your focus between near, intermediate and far distances. And if you are going to be spending hours on the computer, try to avoid wearing contact lenses as this may worsen your dry eyes symptoms.

  1. The “20-20-20” Rule.

It is important to take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule. For every 20 minutes that you are on the screen, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

  1. Take frequent breaks.

It is important to “get away” from your computer screen after every 30 minutes of usage. Take a walk around your room and stretch your arms and legs and exercise your neck, shoulder and back muscles to relax them. This will help to reduce your risk of headaches and neck, back and shoulder pain associated with prolonged computer use.

  1. Remember to blink!

When we are using our digital devices, our blink rate goes down and this can lead to dry eyes. Blinking helps to moisten and refresh your eyes, so make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. You might even want to put a sticky note on your computer screen to remind you to blink more often!

  1. Use artificial tears.

You can get over-the-counter artificial tears to relieve dry eyes. Or you can visit your ophthalmologist who can suggest which eyedrops might be best for you. Lubricating drops that don’t contain preservatives can be used as often as you need. If the drops you’re using contain preservatives, don’t use them more than four times a day.

  1. Air quality and humidity.

The air quality and humidity of your space can also be improved by using an air purifier and humidifier. Try to avoid a direct fan blowing at your face, as this will cause your eyes to dry out more. 

Last but not least, most of these eye strain symptoms caused by computer use are only temporary and will reduce after you stop using the computer. However, if you have persistent eye symptoms, please see your ophthalmologist for a detailed eye assessment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that everyone get a baseline eye exam by the age of 40. Getting regular comprehensive eye exams from an ophthalmologist is critical to diagnosing any potential eye disease in its early stages.

The Academy also recommends that people over age 65 get an exam every one to two years, even if they have no symptoms of eye problems.

Written by Dr Tan Yar Li