Modern life is tough; especially on our eyes. The daily deluge of artificial light, ultra-vivid images, viral videos, Tik-Toks, memes, WhatsApps, Tweets, Google searches – the list goes on like this for many column inches – combine to make this moment in human history the most taxing on our eyes than any prior era.
How can we protect our eyes in this decidedly harsh visual ‘sightscape’? We asked an expert that very question! Tia Crockwell, MCOptom, graduated from Aston University in 2016 with a first-class honours degree in Optometry, and currently plies her trade at Spexx Eyecare. Ms Crockwell provided plenty of information to help us in our fight to protect our eyes from all the glowing lights.
Eye care is a fundamental part of human life, as the sense of sight can often be the difference between life and death for many of us. Ms Crockwell begins with the basics of modern eye care:
“Everyone should visit their Optometrist annually whether they wear glasses or not. We can detect eye diseases such as glaucoma, as well as systemic diseases such as diabetes during your routine eye examination.
“Try to avoid touching your eyes, to reduce the risk of infection from dirty hands and try to avoid rubbing your eyes which can damage the surface of your eyes.
“Make a habit of wearing the correct protective eye wear when needed, for example you should wear safety goggles anytime you are working with hazardous chemicals or around flying debris. This is as common as when you are working at home on a DIY project, or trimming your hedges – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“Also, sports goggles are so important to prevent eye injuries, for example when playing squash. Did you know that the squash ball is the perfect size to fit into your eye socket and cause serious eye damage?”
Of course, even Optometrists struggle to keep the perils of modern life at bay when it comes to protecting their own eyes. Ms Crockwell talks about her personal struggle with dry eyes, and testifies on the importance of giving your eyes time to relax during intense sessions in front of ominously illuminated screens.
“I suffer with dry eyes, which is a very common condition. It tends to make your eyes feel gritty and even more watery than normal. There are so many causes of dry eyes, but a big one is looking at computer screens for a long time without a break. On average, we blink about 22 times every minute when we are relaxed, but this reduces to only about 13 times per minute when looking at a screen.
“I try to practice the 20 – 20 – 20 rule, every 20 minutes look 20 feet into the distance for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eye muscles a much-needed break and gives you a good opportunity to blink, and lubricate the ocular surface.”
Growing up in Bermuda, we were all exposed to a spectacularly bright natural environment; the kind of bright that could wreak havoc on human eyes after so many years. There is, then, great urgency attached to developing habits and lifestyles that include engrained eye care. Ms Crockwell advises further:
“Living in Bermuda, we are blessed to have sunshine all year round, and, therefore, protecting your eyes from UV exposure is so important. Make sure that you wear sunglasses that have UV protection, and, if you wear glasses, you can try lenses that react to light and darken in the sun.”
As with all health concerns, diet and lifestyle choices play their part in keeping our eyes robust and our sight strong as well:
“A healthy diet will help you to keep your eyes healthy as well. For example, nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids (found in salmon and other oily fish), lutein (found in spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables) and vitamin C (found in citrus fruits) are known to help with age related vision issues such as macular degeneration.
“Lastly – you’ve heard this one from every health care provider – quit smoking, or never start.”
So much of the modern world is built by professionals looking resolutely into computer screens. These post-modern renaissance professionals put their eyes through the harshest trials in the name of technological progress, and creation. How can they diminish the deleterious effects of our neon-drenched reality on their ocular systems? Ms Crockwell expounds:
“I mentioned the 20 – 20 – 20 rule, as it relates to dry eyes, but it also relates to eyestrain. Eyestrain and headaches are linked to your muscles being exhausted from constant staring at digital devices. Imagine how much your arms would ache if you sat at your computer desk with your arms up for as long as you are staring. All muscles fatigue, so take regular breaks.”
Stop, look into the distance, relax, replenish. Then, when it’s time to close your eyes and sleep, take these precautions to ensure that the treacherous blue-light coming off your computer screen won’t interfere with your essential rest:
“Blue-light is emitted by digital screens and can have an impact on your sleep. The blue-light stops the production of the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for making you sleepy. In other words, you are less drowsy the more blue-light you receive, and it takes you longer to fall asleep at night.
“You can try to turn off your device well before bedtime, or you can try blue-light blocking glasses.”
In closing, Ms Crockwell sounds out a timely warning for our children:
“Yes, professionals are affected by computer screens and digital devices, but I’d like to also highlight how much our children are being affected. Spending so much time looking at something so close can impact their vision significantly and can result in the development of myopia (near-sightedness).
“I encourage children to take regular breaks, limit screen time to 1 – 2 hours a day, keep a forearm distance between their eyes and the device, and make sure that they play outdoors, as the natural light helps with normal eye development.”
Vision is a gift, and losing it, after having grown and lived with it for so long, is NOT a pleasant thing to think about. My eyes have grown progressively weaker over the last decade of my life, to where I simply cannot read, or see anything close to my face clearly without glasses; this is not an enjoyable development.
Even as I type this into my blue-light emitting laptop screen, I can feel the subtle, seething sting in both my eyes – I’m going to have to shut this device down soon. But then I’ll probably pick up the phone and check my messages – when will we learn?
I plan on developing a good relationship with the folks at Spexx Eyecare very soon, and if you have any of the afflictions, conditions, aches, or concerns discussed in this article, you really need to as well. Of course, Bermuda has a plethora of Optometrists, so you can choose whoever you trust with the maintenance and care of your eyes. The take away here is: get checked, get help, and start seeing more.