Young man working on a computer from home

Since the onset of COVID-19, working from home has become the new normal for many people. Individuals have rearranged their living spaces and assembled home offices to accommodate the need to be productive.

Keeping the health of your eyes in mind is an important step as you continue to optimize your home setup. Balancing the tasks of logging in to remote conferencing, working with pets at your feet, remembering to unmute, and the many nuances of living and working within the same environment can be overwhelming to juggle. We want a healthy routine for your eyes to be as easy as possible, so we’ve outlined the top ways to care for your eyes while working from home.

1. Light

Eye strain can be bothersome in environments where excessively bright lighting is present. Too much natural or artificial light can be hard on your eyes. If possible, position your computer to the side of a window to avoid a flood of natural light directly behind or in front of your workspace. Soft white LED or incandescent light bulbs will create the best artificial light for you to work under.

Be sure to consider the screen as a light source as well. The intensity of your screen brightness should match the room you are working in. Open a page with a primarily white background to test the lighting of your screen. If the screen seems to be emitting light, it’s too bright. If the screen seems dull, it’s too dark. Play around with the screen setting on your device or turn on the setting to automatically adjust the brightness based on your surroundings.

2. Position

This tip may come as a surprise, but posture can also affect eye strain. Assuming proper posture can be one of the most challenging obstacles when working from home. Chair height and monitor distance are the key factors in setting yourself up for good posture. Your feet should rest comfortably on the floor and your monitor should be placed directly in front of you about 20 to 24 inches away from your eyes. Ideally, to avoid squinting and neck strain, the center of the screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes.

 3. Exercise

We all know exercise is important and that goes for your eyes too. Healthy eyes can easily shift focus between near and far vision. Looking at a computer screen for extended periods may make it difficult for your eyes to focus at a distance. Although this is temporary, it’s a good practice to exercise your eyes to relax the muscles and reduce fatigue. Consider working the “20-20-20 Rule” into your daily routine. It’s as simple as pausing to look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

Working primarily at a computer can also cause dry eye. We tend to blink less while looking at a screen. Studies have shown that people blink about one third less while working at a computer. Help avoid dry eye by blinking your eyes slowly 10 times every 20 minutes.

4. Contact & Glasses Care

It is always important to be diligent with hand washing before touching the area around your eyes. As with any contagious disease, it is not recommended to wear contacts while sick. If you aren’t currently ill, it is safe to wear contact lenses, but we encourage you to take precautions by properly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying with a clean towel. You should also continue to follow the disinfection methods recommended by your contact lens manufacturer and eye care provider.

To avoid transferring germs to your face, it is also recommended to sanitize and wash your hands and glasses often, especially when frequently removing or adjusting reading glasses.

We know there are many things to think about and balance right now. But taking these small actions of self-care can help you protect one of your most precious assets: your vision.

Patients using telehealth to connect with their doctor

We are all making changes to adapt to social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Some changes make things more convenient and are likely to continue even past the virus outbreak. One of these is telehealth.

What is Telehealth?

It is the ability to deliver healthcare remotely by means of telecommunications technology. We call these “virtual visits.” When it is difficult or inconvenient for you to come to our office, we can schedule a telehealth visit with one of the doctors or technicians to evaluate your condition and provide treatment options.

Telehealth Services

We can provide the following services through a virtual visit with a doctor:

  • Emergency and urgent eye care needs (vision loss, red eyes, dry eyes, painful or sore eyes, flashing lights, floaters)
  • New patient and follow-up care for cornea, lens, and retina conditions (keratoconus, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration)
  • Second opinions for patients and doctors (MDs and ODs)
  • Virtual Free VIP Consultations for vision correction (LASIK and custom lens replacement).

How to Connect to a Telehealth Call

Please try to connect five minutes prior to your appointment time in case of any issues. Here are some tips for getting the best connection for your appointment:

  1. Find a quiet, private, distraction-free space
  2. Use a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer with a good internet connection and a webcam
  3. You will need to use Chrome, Safari, or Firefox web browsers
  4. Make sure to “allow” access to the audio and video on your device

More questions? Learn more about our telehealth program here.

Valley Eye Associates' 2020 Eye Facts

Woman being tested for diabetic retinopathy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults. Diabetic retinopathy is a general term for all disorders of the retina caused by diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy can go undetected without a thorough eye exam. This is because it often has no symptoms in its early stages. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • An increasing number of floaters
  • Blurry vision
  • Vision that changes from blurry to clear
  • Blank or dark areas in your field of vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Colors appear faded or washed out

Diabetic retinopathy symptoms usually affect both eyes.

Diabetics are at risk for permanent vision damage and even blindness if diabetic retinopathy is left untreated. However, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent diabetic eye disease, including:

  • Maintaining good blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control.
  • Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam and/or obtaining retinal photographs that are examined by an eye doctor at least once a year, or more often as recommended by the eye doctor.
  • Women with diabetes prior to pregnancy should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam early in their pregnancy. The eye doctor may recommend additional exams during pregnancy.
  • Keeping a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising regularly, not smoking, and following a healthy diet. Talk to a dietician about eating habits and a doctor before starting an exercise program.

Dr. Michael Vrabec of Valley Eye Associates says, “While diabetic retinopathy is a chronic disease, the good news is that by taking the necessary steps to manage the condition, including getting an annual eye exam, we can help to minimize the harmful effects on your vision.”

For more information about diabetic retinopathy, please visit the American Diabetes Association.

Child having screen time on a tablet

The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending children under age 5, spend one hour or less on digital devices and those under age 1 spend no time at all on a daily basis. The WHO study refers to sedentary screen time, which includes watching television or videos, or playing computer games.

Screen Time Recommendations by Age

Infant (less than 1 year of age) Screen time is not recommended
1-2 years of age No screen time for a 1-year-old. No more than one hour for a 2-year-old, with less time preferred
3-4 years of age No more than one hour

Developing the ability to “use” vision starts at birth, says Glen Steele, O.D., professor of pediatric optometry at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. When a baby watches a parent form words or point to objects, their actions lead to development of a baby’s “looking” process, which fosters their internal curiosity, he says. That curiosity leads to the baby wanting to get to an object out of reach and a desire to move toward it.

Symptoms of Screen Time Exposure

According to the Vision Council, 72% of American parents report their children routinely engage in more than two hours of screen time per day. 30% of parents report their children experience at least one of the following symptoms after being exposed to more than two hours of screen time per day:

  • Headaches
  • Neck/shoulder pain
  • Eye strain, dry or irritated eyes
  • Reduced attention span
  • Poor behavior
  • Irritability

Any of these symptoms could potentially affect academic performance and social interactions.

Vision-Related Problems for Children Ages 8 and up

According to Common Sense Media, children under age 8 now spend more than two hours a day with screen media. For 8 to 10-year-olds, screen time triples to six hours a day. And it’s not unusual for kids in middle school and high school to spend up to nine hours per day looking at digital displays.

Risks Associated with Too Much Screen Time

Children who spend multiple hours staring at digital devices are at risk of developing these vision-related problems:

  • Computer Vision Syndrome: Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include digital eye strain, including fluctuating vision, tired eyes, dry eyes, headache, and fatigue. Other non-visual symptoms of computer vision syndrome include neck, back, and shoulder pain.
  • Unhealthy Posture
  • Nearsightedness Development and Progression: The prevalence of myopia has grown significantly in the last few decades and this trend coincides with the increased use of computers and digital devices by children.
  • Increased Exposure to Blue Light: Emission by the LED screens of computers, tablets, smartphones, and other digital devices might increase a person’s risk of age-related eye diseases like macular degeneration later in life.

What to Do

While it’s not realistic to think that children will stop using modern technology, here are some easy things you can do:

  • Encourage Frequent Visual Breaks: Follow the “20-20-20” rule—every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your screen and look at something that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Encourage Frequent Posture Checks: Moving the head slowly to the right and left as well as up and down can relieve strained muscles and reduce fatigue.
  • Protect Their Eyes from Blue Light: It may be wise to take steps to reduce premature aging of the retina by limiting the amount of blue light exposure the eye receives throughout a lifetime.
  • Establish Media-Free Times: Break your child’s fixation on digital devices, reduce eye fatigue, and limit blue light exposure while using this time to connect as a family.
  • Schedule Annual Eye Exams: Schedule an exam prior to the start of every school year.
Stack of school supplies and a pair of kids' glasses

According to experts, up to 80% of the learning children do is through their eyes. Having an undiagnosed vision problem can hinder a child’s education, confidence, and ability to socialize. It can also subsequently affect their success later in life. Unlike adults, kids might not know how to explain what’s wrong. When you don’t know how other people see, it’s difficult to say you’re having trouble seeing the world around you.

Common Vision Symptoms

Children with vision problems are unlikely to tell their teachers and parents because they don’t realize the source of the problem. Parents can help by watching for some common symptoms:

  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Slow to finish schoolwork
  • Short attention span for close work
  • Tendency to fidget and look away from work
  • Frequent headaches
  • Tendency to cover one eye
  • Frequent blinking or eye-rubbing

When Should Children’s Eyes Be Examined?

Patient Age Examination Interval
Asymptomatic/Low Risk At Risk
Birth to 2 years At 6 to 12 months of age At 6 to 12 months of age or as recommended
3 through 5 years At least once between 3 and 5 years of age At least once between 3 and 5 years of age or as recommended
6 through 18 years Before first grade and annually thereafter Before first grade and annually, or as recommended, thereafter
Source: American Optometric Association

Comprehensive Eye Exams Go Beyond 20/20

A comprehensive eye exam at Valley Eye Associates goes beyond a simple screening performed at schools. It involves checking for color blindness, eye alignment (teaming), ocular motility (tracking), and depth perception. Valley Eye Associates will also provide a prescription for glasses, if needed.

Your family’s vision is important to us! Call (920) 739-4361 today to schedule an eye exam for your child and make sure they see their best this school year.

Man undergoing an eye exam

Approximately 37 million adults in America have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma, all of which can cause visual impairment or blindness. However, recent studies show that making healthy choices and getting regular eye exams can help reduce a person’s risk of vision loss. In support of Healthy Vision Month in May, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is encouraging everyone to take charge of their eye health and preserve their sight by following some simple tips.

  1. Wear sunglasses (even on cloudy days!). It can help prevent the formation of early cataracts by filtering ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Look for sunglasses that block out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Bonus: Add a wide-brimmed hat when you’re out and about for extra protection!
  2. Eating healthy is good for your eyes! In fact, a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables—especially dark leafy greens, like spinach or kale—is important for keeping your eyes healthy. Research also shows that fish high in omega-3 fatty acids—like salmon, tuna, and halibut—can help protect your vision.
  3. Regular physical activity can boost your mood, reduce stress, help you stay at a healthy weight—and protect you from serious eye diseases! Anything that gets your heart beating faster can help keep your eyes healthy—try going for a quick walk after work.
  4. Blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or staring at your phone, you may forget to blink—and that can tire out your eyes. Try using the 20-20-20 rule throughout the day: Every 20 minutes, look away from the screens and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This reduces eyestrain and helps your eyes (and you!) feel better at the end of the day.
  5. Are you at risk for eye injuries? About 2,000 people in the United States get a serious work-related eye injury every day and people with sports-related eye injuries end up in the ER every 13 minutes! The good news is that you can help protect your eyes from injury by wearing protective eyewear like safety glasses, goggles, and safety shields. To make sure you have the right kind of protective eyewear and you’re using it correctly, talk with your eye doctor.

Get more tips to keep your eyes healthy and safe. And don’t forget to ask your doctor if you need to schedule an eye exam!

Each year, an estimated 100,000 people are hurt by sports-related eye injuries. About 13,500 of these injuries result in permanent vision loss. In support of Sports Eye Safety Month, this April, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds athletes everywhere that a great majority of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided by simply wearing the proper protection.

Sports-Related Eye Injuries by Age

Activity Estimated Injuries Ages 0-14 Ages 15+
Water and pool activities 6,605 3,573 3,032
Basketball 5,141 1,434 3,707
Guns, darts, arrows and slingshots 2,798 951 1,847
Baseball and softball 2,488 971 1,517
Health clubs (exercise and weight-lifting) 2,253 465 1,788
Bicycling 1,864 648 1,216
Football 1,448 821 627
Other sports and recreational activities 1,445 337 1,108
Soccer 1,390 594 796
Playground equipment 1,180 1,113 67
Table source: Prevent Blindness. Based on statistics provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Directorate for Epidemiology; National Injury Information Clearinghouse; National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Product Summary Report—Eye Injuries Only—Calendar Year 2017.

These sports-related injuries included infections, corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, swollen or detached retinas, and traumatic cataracts. The source, Prevent Blindness, also offers tips on sports eye protection. Here are some below:

  • Always consult an eye care professional to get the best eye protection for your sport and lifestyle.
  • If you wear prescription glasses, ask your eye doctor to fit you for prescription eye protection.
  • Sports eye protection should be padded or cushioned along the brow and bridge of the nose. Padding will prevent the eye guards from cutting the skin.
  • Try on eye protection to determine if it is the right size. Adjust the strap and make sure it is not too tight or too loose. Consult your eye care professional to ensure it has a comfortable, safe fit.

“Wearing eye protection should be part of any athlete’s routine, just as putting on equipment like shin guards, gloves or a helmet are,” says Dr. Michael Vrabec. “Eye accidents happen so quickly, but the effects can be painful and last a lifetime. Making sure you have the right safety eyewear can reduce serious vision impairment.”

Woman looking at computer at work

Most workplaces today involve daily computer screen time that can cause continued and persistent eye strain. Individuals using computers for long stretches of time tend to complain about symptoms like dry eyes, blurry vision and eye strain. When using multiple devices, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, there are a number of ways to maintain good eye care and health while you work.

First of all, regular eye exams are important and you should tell your doctor how much online work you do each day. When using your devices, make sure you stop for breaks at regular intervals. It’s a good idea to get up, walk to a window, and focus on various distances. Allowing the eyes to look away from the screen, particularly at something soothing can be very resting for the eyes.

Additionally, computer users find that they don’t blink as frequently as they should, creating dry eyes. When staring continuously at your monitor, you will blink a lot less than normal. While you are working at your computer, make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. In fact, closing your eyes for a few seconds can help as well. Air conditioning can also add to the problem. If you find your eyes are still dry, applying artificial tears can help to keep your eyes moist. If possible, install a humidifier in your work area.

The distance to your computer or device also plays a big role in the health of your eyes. Make sure the monitor is about 20 inches away from your eyes. The top of the monitor should be tilted a little below your eye level. Keep your monitor free of dust and fingerprints, as these can greatly reduce clarity.

Your eyewear is important too. Consider an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare and ease eye strain. Talk with your doctor about the best options for the way you use your eyes.

A healthy lifestyle and eating well can improve the health of your eyes. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as getting a good night’s sleep are all important ways to preserve the health of your eyes. During this Workplace Eye Wellness Month, it’s important to take the necessary steps toward better eye care.

The National Eye Institute projects by the year 2050, 5.4 million people in the United States will suffer from Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), more than double the number in 2010.

What is AMD?

Diagram showing 2.1 million people affected by AMD in 2010 and 5.4 million in 2050

Each eye represents a total of 80 million people, the estimated number of Americans who will be 65 and older in 2050, the population most affected by eye disease.

AMD is a common eye disease affecting people over the age of 60. It damages the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina that focuses images and translates them to the brain. In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark. AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

Who is at risk?

Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking: Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD
  • Race: AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos
  • Family history and genetics: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected.

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD.

What are the stages of AMD?

Early AMD

People with early AMD typically do not have vision loss.

Intermediate AMD

Intermediate AMD may cause some vision loss, but most people will not experience any symptoms.

Late AMD

There are two types of late AMD:

  • Dry AMD: There is a gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula that convey visual information to the brain, and of the supporting tissue beneath the macula. These changes cause vision loss.
  • Wet AMD: Abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These vessels can leak fluid and blood, which may lead to swelling and damage of the macula. The damage may be rapid and severe.

AMD has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes examined regularly. If you are at risk for AMD because of age, family history, lifestyle, or some combination of these factors, you should not wait to experience changes in vision before getting checked for AMD.

Source: National Eye Institute