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In an age dominated by screens, our eyes are under siege from the relentless glare. Experts in the UAE tell us how to safeguard our vision amidst the digital onslaught

In an era where screens reign supreme, our eyes bear the brunt of our digital indulgence. From smartphones to laptops, the hours we spend glued to these devices are taking a toll, manifesting in what experts dub as digital eye strain (DES).

Dr Faizan Mehmood, Specialist Ophthalmology at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, sheds light on the common symptoms plaguing modern eyes. “Eye fatigue, dryness, blurred vision, headaches, neck, and shoulder pain are the usual suspects,” Dr Mehmood reveals. He emphasises the importance of recognising these signals early on, urging individuals to adopt proactive measures.

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Dr Imad Hakim, Consultant Ophthalmologist in Cataract and Refractive Vision Correction Surgery, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai

Dr Rabee Hilal, Corneal and Refractive Surgeon at Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Reem, echoes Dr Mehmood’s sentiments. “Headaches reign supreme among complaints, closely followed by dry or tired eyes, burning sensation, and difficulty focusing,” Dr Hilal remarks.

But the story doesn’t end there. Dr Imad Hakim, Consultant Ophthalmologist in Cataract and Refractive Vision Correction Surgery, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, pinpoints the root cause: our digital dependency. “Prolonged screen time is the culprit,” Dr Hakim asserts, noting the surge in computer vision syndrome cases. “Eye fatigue, dryness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty focusing, and heightened light sensitivity — the symptoms are manifold.”

Dr Rabee Hilal, Corneal and Refractive Surgeon at Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Reem

Yet, all hope is not lost. Armed with awareness, individuals can combat DES. Dr Mehmood prescribes the 20-20-20 rule — every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, gazing at something 20 feet away. “Conscious blinking, proper lighting, screen adjustments, and artificial tears also play pivotal roles,” he advises.

Dr Hilal stresses the need for timely intervention. “Recognising symptoms early is key to effective management,” he underscores. Dr Hakim echoes this sentiment, urging vigilance in identifying warning signs.

As the digital world surges forward, safeguarding our eyes becomes paramount. With the rise of digital dependency, the quest for strategies to shield our vision has never been more crucial. Dr Mehmood unveils a tactical arsenal to fortify our eyes against the onslaught of screens.

Dr Faizan Mehmood, Specialist Ophthalmology at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais

“An ergonomic workstation is paramount,” Dr Mehmood asserts. “Adjusting chair height, desk position, and monitor angle ensures optimal posture and viewing comfort.” He advocates for screen filters to fend off the glare and recommends fine-tuning brightness and contrast settings for a visual oasis.

Joining the fray, Dr Hilal champions the renowned 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, steal a glance at a distant object for 20 seconds,” he advises. “It’s the eye’s equivalent of hitting the reset button.” Dr Hilal also calls attention to the importance of monitor brightness adjustments, periodic eye drops, and regular blinking to rejuvenate weary eyes.

Dr Hakim further arms us with battle-tested strategies. “Enlist in the 20-20-20 regiment,” Dr. Hakim commands. “But also, tailor screen brightness to match ambient light, deploy anti-glare screens, and maintain a safe viewing distance.” He cautions against digital skirmishes in dimly lit environments and recommends reinforcements in the form of artificial tears to quench parched eyes.

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Blue light dilemma

While the digital age marches on, armed with its array of screens, there’s a silent menace lurking in the blue glow emitted by our devices. But don’t be fooled by its seemingly innocuous shimmer — this blue light holds the power to wreak havoc on our eyes. Dr Mehmood delves into the potential perils of blue light exposure and offers strategies to shield our eyes from its harmful effects.

“Blue light isn’t just a bedtime nemesis,” Dr Mehmood cautions. “It disrupts sleep patterns, messes with melatonin production, and poses risks of macular degeneration.” He points out the need for proactive measures to combat this digital menace, advocating for blue light filters, activating night mode settings, and reducing screen time before bedtime to restore balance to our circadian rhythms.

Dr Hilal elucidates the science behind blue light’s sinister side. “Short-wave blue light, with wavelengths between 415 and 455 nanometers, poses a significant threat,” he reveals. “It can wreak havoc on the retina, paving the way for macular degeneration and other ocular maladies.” Dr Hilal champions the efficacy of blue light-blocking lenses and device filters as potent shields against this optical onslaught.

Echoing these concerns, Dr Hakim underscores the urgency of the situation. “Blue light isn’t just a fleeting nuisance — it’s a long-term hazard,” he declares. “Its insidious effects extend beyond eye strain, potentially culminating in irreversible retinal damage.” Dr Hakim prescribes a regimen of precautionary measures, from screen filters to sleep hygiene practices, to safeguard against the silent threat of blue light.

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Eye fitness

While we can’t avoid screen time, we also can’t afford to neglect the invaluable asset that is our vision. But amidst the pixelated glare, there lies a crucial yet often overlooked solution: eye exercises. Just as we hit the gym to sculpt our bodies, it’s time to pump up our vision muscles to combat the strain of prolonged screen time. Dr Mehmood reveals a suite of eye exercises and habits to keep our vision sharp amidst the relentless onslaught of screens.

“Think of it as a gym session for your eyes,” Dr Mehmood quips. “From blinking exercises to figure-eight manoeuvres, these routines can flex and tone your ocular muscles, combating the strain of prolonged screen time.” He stresses the importance of hydration and a nutrient-rich diet, along with regular eye check-ups, to maintain peak eye health.

Dr Hilal agrees with Dr Mehmood’s views. “The 20-20-20 rule is our holy grail,” Dr Hilal affirms. “But let’s not overlook the importance of blue light-blocking lenses and a vitamin-packed diet for fortified eye health.”

Dr Hakim highlights the necessity of proactive eye care amidst our screen-centric lifestyles. “Regular eye check-ups are non-negotiable,” Dr Hakim asserts. “Pair these with targeted exercises like focusing on distant objects and maintaining proper ergonomics to keep eye fatigue at bay.”

He advocates for a holistic approach, encompassing hydration and nutrition, to ensure our eyes remain resilient in the face of digital bombardment.