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Screen use taking toll on nation's eye health

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Screen use taking toll on nation's eye health

Bleary-eyed office workers are being urged to take a break during National Eye Health Week (23 - 29 September)[1] after a poll commissioned by the charity Eye Health UK and Vision Express Opticians reveals 85 per cent suffer symptoms of screen fatigue - headaches, eyestrain and problems with close and long-distance vision - after a typical day in the office[2].

During the average working lifetime squared-eyed Brits spend an eye watering 128,780 hours sitting in front of a screen (that's around 15 years solid)[3]. Yet, just 1 in 10 employees takes regular breaks from their computer[4] as recommended by eye health professionals and the Health and Safety Executive..

Prolonged screen use can put enormous strain on our eyes and trigger episodes of visual stress. Common symptoms of screen fatigue include:

Tired eyes. Muscles around the eye, like any others, can get tired from continued use. Concentrating on a screen for extended periods can cause headaches and lead to concentration difficulties.

Blurry vision. Gazing at the same distance for an extended period can cause your focus to spasm or ‘lock up'. This will cause your vision to blur temporarily when you look away from the screen.

Dry eyes. Studies consistently show that people's blink rate drops significantly when concentrating on a digital screen. A reduced blink rate can speed up evaporation of the eyes' tear film resulting in dry, itchy red or even watery eyes.

David Cartwright, optometrist and chairman of Eye Health UK explains: "Taking regular breaks during prolonged screen use is vital to keep your eyes healthy. I'd urge all screen users to follow the 20-20-20 rule - look away from the screen every 20 minutes and focus on an object 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. It's a really simple and effective way to minimise screen fatigue yet our research shows only one in five screen users has heard of the 20-20-20 rule and even fewer practice it!"

To help computer users avoid eye health problems associated with intensive screen use Eye Health UK and Vision Express Opticians have teamed up to launch The Big Blink - an initiative offering advice on how to beat symptoms of screen fatigue and information on employee rights when using a computer or any visual display unit during the course of their work.

Despite all employers being legally obliged to offer regular sight tests to employees who regularly use VDUs (screens) at work the Eye Health UK/Vision Express Opticians poll found just a third (32%) of employees had been offered free sight tests and only one in three had received health and safety training on how best to view a computer screen and set up their workstation[5].

As well as taking regular breaks how your screen is set-up can also affect your risk of screen fatigue. One rule of thumb when thinking about where and how to position screens is the 1 - 2 - 10 rule: view mobile phones from a distance of one foot (30cm), desktop devices and laptops from two feet (60 - 75cms), and TV screens from around 10 feet (depending on how big the screen is).

Adjusting the font size so you can comfortably read it (12pt min) may also help reduce screen fatigue.

Commenting on the importance of safeguarding your sight when working at a computer screen Dan McGhee, Director of Professional Services at Vision Express Opticians: "Making a few simple adjustments to screen settings and working patterns could be all that's needed to save your eyes from feeling tired and irritated after a long day at work. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes; look away from your screen and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Starring at a screen can also highlight existing vision problems that you may have so it's vital that computer users visit their opticians for regular eye examinations and follow a healthy eyecare regime. Don't forget, if you need glasses specifically for VDU work, your employer should cover the cost."

As part of the Big Blink all screen users are being invited to look up from their screen at 11am on Fri-eye-day 27 September. Blink, then focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Before, repeating every 20 minutes to help prevent future screen fatigue.

For advice on being screen smart and affordable eye care solutions go


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Rachel Robson National Eye Health Week Press Office

Tel: 07743 227977  Email:  Twitter: @myvisionmatters

Notes to editors

About National Eye Health Week

This year's National Eye Health Week takes place 23 - 29 September 2019. The Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests for all. further information about the Week and information on looking after your vision and eye health.

About Vision Express

Vison Express is offering FREE eye tests during National Eye Health

[1]Take a break by joining The Big Blink at 11am on Fr-eye-day 27 more info

[2] Q5. Vision Matters survey of 1,008 office workers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19 . 61% of respondents say they regularly suffer tired eyes, 45% suffer headaches, 36% suffer neck ache, almost a third (30%) suffer sore eyes, 20 % suffer itchy eyes, 1 in five suffer blurred vision, 11% suffer red eyes, 1in 20 experience double vision.

[3] Eye Health UK screen smart report

[4] Q1. Vision Matters survey of 250 employers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19

[5]Q3.Vision Matters survey of 1,008 office workers conducted by Opinion Matters between 30.08.19 - 03.09.19