Overusing the smartphone and our computer can lead to vision problems much earlier than before. Here’s how to protect your eyes.
You may want to sit down for this. A 2017 study by Ernst & Young found that Singaporeans spend an average of 12 hours and 42 minutes on digital devices every single day. That’s pretty much most of our waking hours.
The effects are naturally terrible. About 80 per cent of people here are myopic by the time they are 18 years old. And while research hasn’t quite backed this up, doctors and optometrists are increasingly pointing their fingers at heavy usage of smartphones for early onset of presbyopia (lao hua). In Singapore, people are getting presbyopia at as early as 37 years old – it typically only affects people in their 40s and above.
While genes play a part in how well we see, our lifestyle habits play a heavy part in preventing eye strain, improving vision and reducing the risk of conditions like glaucoma, early cataracts and macular degeneration, which may eventually cause blindness. To protect your eyes, be sure to practice these habits.
1. Get an eye exam at least once a year
We’re not talking about a cursory eyesight check, but a comprehensive eye examination to pick up on things like vision changes, status of corneal health, eye diseases and other abnormalities.
While a number of eyewear stores offer this service, Videre Eyecare at Forum the Shopping Mall has introduced a fully digital eye examination journey (priced from $60 to $120) using Essilor equipment. Forget clunky test lenses that need to be switched out manually – the digital vision test using the brand’s new phoropter is more comfortable, efficient and accurate. Plus, a new analyser device can pick up your day and night vision, abnormalities, pupil responses, eye diseases and corneal health in just 90 seconds – it used to take up to an hour using different equipment.
Your consultation also differs based on age. With children and teens, the optometrists in-store may draw attention to slowing down the progression of myopia. Grown-ups aged 17 to 34 years old may be educated on proper use of digital devices and healthy vision habits to reduce eye strain. Those aged 35 and above will be tested for presbyopia and other visual health issues.
2. Eat right
Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, zinc and lutein may reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Load up on oily fish like salmon, mackerel and whitebait, along with leafy greens like spinach and kale. Food that are high in zinc include meats, shellfish like oysters, nuts and seeds.
Also, by keeping to a balanced diet (and maintaining a healthy weight), you lower your chances of Type 2 diabetes – a chronic disease that can cause poor vision, glaucoma and even blindness.
(Also read: 6 Ways to Improve Your Eyesight Naturally)
3. Wear sunglasses
Just like your skin, your eyes need UV protection. Over time, exposure to the sun’s rays can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and pterygium, a growth on the pupil that causes astigmatism. Look for a pair that blocks out 99 to 100 per cent of UV rays and go for polarised lenses to reduce glare. Wraparound designs prevent rays from coming in from the side.
4. Abide by the 20-20-20 rule
The best thing you can do for your eyes right now is to cut down your screen time. But if that’s not quite an option for working hours, try this tip. For every 20 minutes that you work on your computer or look at your m0bile device, rest your eyes for 20 seconds by looking at a spot 20 feet away. It’s even better if you can get up for a short walk.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking can damage your optic nerve and increase your chances of getting cataracts and macular degeneration. If going at it alone is too daunting, try consulting a professional. Guardian offers a Smoking Cessation programme where you will be guided by a pharmacist on the journey. The programme comes with nine counselling sessions that are done face-to-face and over the phone.