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Taking care of your eyes during COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19. Not only should individuals avoid close contact with others and wash their hands often. It is also critical to keep your hands away from your face and eyes.

COVID-19 can spread from person-to-person when a sick person coughs or talks. Virus particles can spray from their mouth or nose into another person’s face or eyes. It can also be spread through touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has offered some recommendations on how to significantly reduce your risk of getting infected while taking care of your eyes during the Covid 19 outbreak.

Screen Time

The “Work from Home” orders intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has highlighted the extraordinary impact both positive and negative that “screens” have on our lives. Although we are living in extraordinary circumstances at the moment, monitoring screen time is important now and in the future.

Infants and toddlers under the age of two should not be exposed to electronic screens at any time. If you need to look at a screen, try to do it while your baby sleeps. Between two and four, limit daily screen time to just one hour. Age two through preschool, children should view screens no more than an hour a day, rules for screens during the lock down clarifies expectations for children. Increased screen time has been linked to childhood obesity.

We have gone from mingling with colleagues, classmates and friends to being told to move our social interactions safely behind a webcam and sanitized keyboard. Kitchen tables have become boardrooms and laps become school desks.

Eye Symptoms

It seems everyone is staring at a computer screen, phone or other digital device these days. And it's causing a serious problem called digital eye strain.

Recent research by The Vision Council has shown that 59 percent of people who routinely use computers and digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain (also called computer eye strain or computer vision syndrome). Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include: eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye twitching and red eyes.Having a routine comprehensive eye exam every year is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems.

Viral conjunctivitis is known to present with upper respiratory infections (colds, flus, etc.) and may be a symptom of the COVID-19 virus. A recent study of hospitals across China, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found “conjunctival congestion” or red, infected eyes in nine of 1,099 patients (0.8%) with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus.

Spectacle Wear

Just like washing your hands, it’s good practice to clean your glasses regularly. A glasses cleaning solution that contains a detergent will help to remove surface microbes that may be of harm. Make sure you clean them thoroughly, not forgetting the nose pads and sides, and dry them with a clean glasses cleaning cloth. Don’t forget to also check the cleanliness of your glasses case as well. If you do have to place your glasses down on a surface, make sure you clean your glasses again before putting them back on.

Computer spectacles offer the greatest comfort at your computer, you will benefit from having your eyecare practitioner modify your spectacle prescription to create customized computer spectacles. These also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.

Blue control lenses or lightly tinted lenses for computer eyewear to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful blue light emitted by digital devices.

To reduce your risk for computer vision syndrome and neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent screen breaks during your work day (at least one 10-minute break every hour). During these breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to reduce tension and muscle fatigue.

Contact Lens Wear

Apparently, the average person touches their face more than 20 times an hour and half the time probably isn’t even aware they’re doing it. Safe to say, it’s a difficult challenge for everyone. Contact lens wearers have the extra struggle of having to cope with physically wearing something on their faces or in their eyes and having to fit them on a regular basis.

Wearing contact lenses is safe despite myths and misinformation that you may have heard or read about recently. What’s critical though is that you wash your hands carefully and thoroughly with soap and water followed by drying them with a clean towel or unused paper towels. You should do this when you’re putting your lenses in your eyes and also removing them.

If you’re using comfort drops you should continue to do so and make sure you’re thoroughly washing your hands before putting the drops in your eyes. Reducing or stopping using comfort drops could lead to an increase in eye irritation which could increase how often you inadvertently rub your eyes.