The Pandemic Years Have Exhausted My Eyes—Here’s What I Learned From An Optometrist About How To Help Them

Frames by Vogue® Eyewear - Lenses Transitions® XTRActive® new generation Gray
Confession: I look at screens more than I’m usually willing to admit. Like many people, I’ve spent the last two years staring at a Zoom screen, on top of refreshing my email, scrolling social media, and watching TV. As a result, I’ve started to notice considerably more eye fatigue than I ever have before. (Raise your hand if you’re in this camp, too.)

And it’s no surprise, given the current circumstances, that my eyes would be feeling the effects of all that screen time. "With overuse of the eye muscles, the visual system gets overloaded," says optometrist Joseph J. Allen, OD, FAAO.* "It’s common, as a result, to experience eye strain, headaches, and light sensitivity."

Dr. Allen likens it to being at a party where there are multiple conversations happening at once. It’s hard to focus on one conversation if there are people talking at the same time—and the same principle applies to your eyes. He says that increased light exposure from your phone, tablet, and computer (not to mention the sun) eventually leaves your eyes feeling as overwhelmed as the person at the party trying to hear every word.

But since screen time is now as ingrained in daily life as ever, what are we supposed to do to alleviate the symptoms of eye exhaustion without swearing off technology? For answers, I asked Dr. Allen for his expert insights on how to help protect my eyes.

His one overarching piece of advice? Minimize light overexposure as much as possible. You can do that by setting designated screen time breaks or wearing lenses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, help filter harmful blue light, and help reduce glare—like Transitions® XTRActive® lenses,** which automatically adjust based on light exposure so you can wear them both inside and outside for always-on protection.

Keep scrolling for more of Dr. Allen's tips on managing eye exhaustion.

Tip 1: Consider new glasses

There’s no way around it: I use a laptop every day for work, and also at night (I write poetry and prose). Since I spend a lot of time with my computer and I love to read on my tablet, I’ve sacrificed a bit of eye exhaustion in the name of art (okay, and web surfing).

Dr. Allen recommends blue-light filtering specs to his patients, but warns that just any 'ole pair probably won't do the trick. "For this reason I always recommend speaking to your local eye care provider about what brands they carry, and which may be best for you.”

I already wear glasses, so I knew I'd want a pair of lenses that could support my prescription, filter blue light, and reduce the intensity of bright light outdoors like Transitions® XTRActive® lenses. They block 100 percent of ultraviolet rays and filter up to 34 percent of harmful blue light when indoors and up to 90 percent of harmful blue light when outdoors, so they make the cut in Dr. Allen's book.***

Tip 2: Step away from your screen

I already knew taking breaks from screens was important, but I don't always put that knowledge into practice. (Guilty.) That's why I appreciated Dr. Allen's tip for making it happen: “Take a break by getting outside the home and doing an activity where you can gaze into long distances.” And, if you're like me and you can't always find the time to go outside, Dr. Allen says you can also mix in yellow-tinted light bulbs and switch devices to night mode.

If you do work a walk around the block into your daily routine (I've started going on afternoon walks with my pup, Pepper, a few extra times a week), Dr. Allen says to be mindful about your eyes while outdoors, too.

"The most powerful source of blue light we see in a day comes from natural sunlight," he says. "Because of this, along with the intense UV light exposure from the sun, I strongly recommend 100 percent UV-blocking lenses such as Transitions® lenses or most sunglasses throughout the day."

I've used Transitions® lenses in the past, and I can vouch for the convenience of not having to swap glasses before you head out the door. And with the new Transitions® XTRActive® Polarized lenses you get all the ease of light-intelligent lenses with less reflective glare, which equals sharper vision with more vivid colors.†

Tip 3: Pay attention to your posture

Now for an eye exhaustion tip I didn't already know: Improper posture can impact your eyes. "If you are holding your phone very close to your face, you will likely be putting more strain on your eyes," Dr. Allen says.

His tip for remedying the situation is by staying cognizant of your posture when using a digital device. Ask yourself: How am I centered on my device? Am I crouching over it? How far away is the screen from my face? Do my eyes feel more sensitive in this position?

"By sitting with better posture and keeping your digital screens at a more comfortable distance, you may be able relieve some of that eye tension you feel building up throughout the day," Dr. Allen says.

I've started using this tip as a reminder to stop, breathe, and take a second to recenter during whatever activity I'm doing (especially one that’s phone-based), which has been good for my eyes and my overall well-being.

*The featured eye care professionals’ opinions and remarks are their own. Some may receive consideration for their work with Transitions Optical.

**Transitions XTRActive new generation block up to 34% of harmful blue light indoors and up to 90% of harmful blue light outdoors. “Harmful blue light” is calculated between 380nm and 460nm. Based on tests on polycarbonates gray lenses at 23ºC.

***Harmful blue light” is calculated between 380nm and 460nm.

EcoOptics Limited - Prof. Nicholas Roberts, Quantitative study evaluating the visual benefits of the polarization properties of lenses compared to similar non-polarized lenses, 2019/2020.

Top photo: Transitions

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