COVID-19 has impacted the way we work, learn and socialize, with more Canadians than ever seeking connection and entertainment online. According to a new survey commissioned by Alcon Canada, two-thirds of Canadians requiring vision correction (66 per cent) are spending more time on computer, tablet or phone screens than they did before the pandemic, and nearly one-third (31 per cent) feel their eyesight has gotten worse.
The study of 1,000 Canadians requiring vision correction, conducted by research firm Leger, showed that 34 per cent of Canadians requiring vision correction say their eyes feel more tired during the pandemic than they did before, which is a possible sign of digital eyestrain, a condition caused by spending too much time in front of screens. A study found the effects of long-term computer use on the eyes suggest that digital eyestrain is a form of evaporative dry eye. As a result, tears evaporate on the surface of the eye and can cause them to feel dry, tired or irritated. Despite this:
- One-third (34 per cent) say they’ve delayed getting new contact lenses while another third (33 per cent) say they’ve delayed getting new glasses, which can further contribute toward worsening vision
- Nearly 40 per cent say they’re uncomfortable with the idea of visiting their eye care professional during the pandemic
- One-quarter (28 per cent) say they’re actively experiencing symptoms of dry eye
“While it’s tempting to turn to streaming services and e-books for entertainment after long days of working and learning on screens, I’m seeing patients in my clinic who are suffering from sore, tired eyes as a result, which could be a sign of dry eye caused by digital eyestrain,” says Dr. Shawn Moore, optometrist at Orillia Optometry. “Conditions like dry eye can also present as blurry vision, so if you’re experiencing changes in your eyesight, patients still need to prioritize seeing an optometrist at this time to re-assess their vision care needs. Your eye doctor might recommend using an eye drop with lipids, like SYSTANE® COMPLETE, or switching to a daily disposable contact lens featuring water gradient technology, like DAILIES TOTAL1®.”
In addition to dry eye and worsening vision, the survey showed that Canadians are frustrated with the inconvenience and nuisance of foggy glasses caused by wearing a mask and glasses together while running errands. Three-quarters of Canadians who wear glasses say their glasses fog up when wearing masks; 35 per cent say they adjust their glasses more when wearing them with masks; and more than half of Canadians (51 per cent) requiring vision correction wear contact lenses when going outside.
Experiencing changes with your vision during COVID-19? The following steps could help:
- Give your eyes a rest. When looking at screens, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look 20 feet away to fight digital eyestrain.
- Find the right eye drop. While dry eye is often a chronic condition that can’t be cured, the right eye drop can provide comfort and help improve symptoms. Lipids found in a drop like SYSTANE® Complete restore the outer layer of the tear film, which helps prevent the tear evaporation often seen with digital eyestrain.
- Consider a daily disposable contact lens. If your blurry vision is caused by a changing prescription and not dry eye, consider a daily disposable lens when updating your prescription, which eliminates the need for cleaning and storing your lenses. For those seeking exceptional comfort and additional hydration, DAILIES TOTAL1® features the world’s first and only water-gradient lens technology, which creates a cushion of moisture on the eye that is so comfortable, it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.
- Reassess your set up. Place your screen at an arm’s length away from you and adjust screen brightness to your surroundings, eliminating any harsh lighting near your workspace.
- Visit your optometrist. Recognizing the increase in screen time during the pandemic, now is not the time to neglect your eye health. Regular eye exams are critical to ensuring your vision health, and only an eye care professional can diagnose a condition like dry eye or prescribe the right vision corrective device. Eye care professionals across Canada have put in place a number of COVID-19 safety precautions to help protect you while in their clinics. Many offer virtual appointments where appropriate and can provide direct shipping for products like contact lenses and eye drops.
An online survey of 1,000 Canadians who wear corrective eye wear was completed between September 22 and September 27, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. For comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1000 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20.