Spike in local eye tests

Waurn Ponds optometrist David Truong with Chloe De Groot. (Louisa Jones) 208774_02

By Luke Voogt

More Geelong residents are experiencing eye strain from excessive screen time during COVID-19 restrictions, according to Waurn Ponds optometrist David Truong.

Mr Truong said more locals were getting their eyes checked as a result of “digital eye strain”.

“There’d be a big increase in teenagers and people working from home under 45.”

The additional screen time was often revealing under-lying long-sightedness – difficulty focusing on objects up close, Mr Truong said.

“The fact that people are on their screens now will make them more aware of their issues.”

Staring at screens and being indoors could also increase children’s risk of becoming short-sighted (myopic), Mr Truong said.

Studying or working remotely, online chats and conferences and Netflix “marathons” could easily add up to 10 or more hours of screen time, he said.

“Everyone is spending more time on screens at the moment under COVID-19 restrictions, using computers and smart phones constantly for work and pleasure.

“Our eyes aren’t meant to be fixed on a single object that long and it’s likely to have a negative effect on our eye health.”

But while sometimes extra screen time revealed underlying issues, in other cases people’s eyes were just fatigued, Mr Truong explained.

“Not everybody needs glasses,” he said.

“Plenty of kids and teenagers are coming in with eyes which are basically fine if they weren’t on the computer for six or more hours a day.”

He encouraged people to spend 20 seconds looking 20 metres away for every 20 minutes in front of the screen.

He also encouraged them to stay hydrated and adjust their screen brightness to that of surrounding light.

“Those sorts of things can be done before you get your eyes checked,” he said.

While he acknowledged restrictions and remote learning had kept children indoors and made them more reliant on screens, he reminded parents to spend time outside with them when possible.

“Throughout primary school, children’s eyes are still developing so it’s vitally important that children are getting up and moving about throughout the day.”

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