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Recognizing eye strain related to remote learning

Blue light blocking glasses could help with headaches, blurred vision and loss of sleep
A child works at a computer at home for school during remote learning.
A child works at a computer at home for school during remote learning.(KCRG File)
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 10:56 PM EDT
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Maine (WABI) - Hybrid and remote learning is helping students get through the pandemic.

But it’s also bringing attention to a sometimes overlooked health condition.

Joy Hollowell examines Computer Vision Syndrome.

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“Our homes have become our office, our gym, they’ve become our classroom. So all that screen time during the course of the day that we didn’t have prior to March 2020, has had a huge impact.”

Dr. Sean Kull with Kull Family Eye Care in Orono says parents may not consider vision problems when their child is tired all the time or complains of headaches.

“They probably just think they’re on the computer all the time and they’re not getting out and getting exercise or they’re not getting out and socializing,” explains Kull, “they’re probably not thinking about their eyes.”

Blue light is found most significantly in the sun, but it’s also in artificial light sources including LEDs, computer screens, cell phones and tablets.

“If you’re going for a walk on a nice, sunny day, you love the blue light because it wakes you up, makes you alert, makes you feel good,” says Kull. “But if you’ve been staring at a computer screen all day and you want to go to sleep at 10 o’clock at night, it’s not so good.”

Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as Digital Eye Strain, can include blurred vision, dry or irritated eyes, headaches, even neck and back pain.

"I’ve been talking to people for years about the importance of really protecting your eyes with blue light glasses. And everybody always kind of said- I think I’m fine. Suddenly people don’t feel so fine.”

Heidi Hertel is the founder of Fitz Frames which makes custom fitted glasses for children. She says customers who’ve ordered the blue light blocking coating for their glasses, notice a difference.

“People that have used them have said it really made a difference in terms of helping them sleep better, reducing eye fatigue, reducing headaches,” says Hertel.

Dr. Kull admits he was a skeptic when blue light blocking glasses first came out a few years back.

“I haven’t had one person say they didn’t see a benefit of them,” he says. “Some people say it’s changed their lives because they’ve had migraines all their lives.”

Kull is convinced the lens coating helps with sleep. Blue light suppresses melatonin, affecting your circadian rhythm.

“Do they help protect your eyes against damage from an intense light source?” asks Kull. “That we don’t have an answer for yet. There’s still scientific studies being done.”

You don’t need a prescription to wear these glasses but Kull does advise consulting with your eye doctor to make sure there are no other contributing factors.

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Dr. Kull says there’s mixed opinions on whether blue light causes eye strain, mainly because of other contributing factors like glare and excessive screen time.

Health experts also recommend the 20-20-20 rule.

For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you should try to look away at something that’s 20 feet away, for a total of 20 seconds.

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