We all find ourselves living through an unexpected public health crisis with the emergence of a global pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus, COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Those living with disabling headache disorders and migraines will continue to require care.
Some of the world’s leading health care organizations have taken measures designed to provide care while protecting health care workers and patients, minimizing the spread of the virus, and carefully utilizing health care services.
These measures are based on suggestions from the leading public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The corona pandemic has many of us sitting down unusually in our homes. And for those of us also working from home daily, you may be finding yourself staring at your devices and computer a lot — without the usual breaks you get from your errands or commute.
We spend our morning catching up on the latest news from our phone. Our in-person meetings are now conference call after conference call and just emailed after email. After a day of work, we stare at another screen while riding our exercise bike or doing an online workout.
Then, it’s back to our mobile to find a dinner recipe. And, lastly, an episode or two of our favorite show.
If this sounds like our life currently, we may be wondering: Is all this extra screen time the cause of our recent spike in headaches?
Can we get a headache from looking at screens?
When it comes to headaches and screen time, firstly, we need to understand eye strain.
Eye strain occurs when our eyes become fatigued after using them intensely for prolonged periods, including computer and device screens. It only takes about 120 consecutive minutes of staring at a screen for eye strain to set in.
When we stare at a screen, there’s glare, we blink less, and it always seems to be either not bright enough or too bright. And how close should you be to our screen, anyway?
To make matters severe, the conditions in which we use our computers and devices aren’t always ideal, including improper room lighting, poor posture, and intense focus.
All these things make it difficult for our eyes to handle staring at a screen . And while eye strain isn’t a severe condition, it is uneasy and can lead to irritating symptoms, including those headaches we may be experiencing.
[Also Read: Types of Headaches]
Symptoms and signs of eye strain include:
- Blurred vision
- Burning or itching eyes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tired and sore eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Sore shoulder, neck, and upper back
While eye strain is irritating, it’s not typically a severe condition. It can, however, lead to headaches and reduce your ability to concentrate. Besides, excess screen time can adversely affect both your mood and your sleep quality .
This means that if we find yourselves staring at screens more than required, it’s essential to rest your eyes and take preventive measures to help prevent eye strain.
Tips for giving your eyes a break
Now that we know why excess screen time may cause those annoying headaches, following these tips will make sure our eyes are getting adequate rest:
1. Follow the 20-20-20 method
The AOS (American Optometric Society) recommends taking breaks during screen time sessions. Particularly, every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at a person or object 20 feet away. If you’re staring at a screen for longer than 120 minutes, consider resting your eyes for 20 minutes.
2. Take a break from your gadgets
It’s tough, we know — but consider putting your device down and doing something else you love, like cooking a meal, walking your dog, or going for a stroll. This is particularly essential if you have to be on your device/ computer all day long for work.
3. Balance the lighting
If you’re working on a laptop/ computer, consider softening the lights to avoid glare. If you’re doing a puzzle or reading, adjust the light behind you and ensure it’s not focused on your face.
4. Keep your ergonomics in check
Adjust your spine in a neutral position by positioning your monitor, keyboard, and mouse correctly. Make sure your monitor’s center is 4 to 5 inches below your eye level and about twenty inches from your face.
Your keyboard and mouse should be at a height such that your shoulders fall in a comfortable position, and avoid resting your hands on your mouse or keyboard.
5. Fight dry eyes with drops
Lubricating drops, also artificial tears called, can help keep your eyes fresh — preventing those dry eyes that can cause eye strain. You can find these eye drops in the medical store.
[Also Read: Home Remedies for Dry Eyes]
6. Consider new eyewear
If you wear glasses or contacts and spend a lot of time in front of a screen, you may want to consider investing in lenses that are designed to help prevent eye strain during computer work or filter out blue light.
If you are not keeping well, particularly with shortness of breath, a cough, or fever, contact your primary care provider for further guidelines. The corona pandemic is evolving quickly and daily, and we expect to update this guidance as the situation changes.
Many physicians will be providing “virtual” visits as a safe alternative for OP (outpatient) clinic consultation/ visits. You may require to discuss a rescue care plan with your provider to make sure that you can avoid the emergency room and urgent care for your safety and others’ safety.
Virtual visits include phone calls, portal visits, or telehealth by video through the internet, including through your smartphone.
We are aware of how critical this time is for everyone, and we know that stress may be a major trigger factor for a few. We are also very mindful that the necessity for social distancing can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
We encourage you to stay connected with friends and family via direct messaging, a phone call, email, FaceTime, texting, or a Netflix party.