CHESAPEAKE, Va. - With most area kids heading back to school next week, a local optometrist wants them to remember to take breaks from the computer and tablet screen.
Dr. Lisa Gontarek of Gontarek Eye Care says since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she's gotten more complaints of dry eyes, blurred vision and headaches from patients. She says it's not surprising given how much more time adults and children have spent looking at a screen the last 18 months.
While blue light glasses might offer some relief, Dr. Gontarek suggests taking a brief break from the screen as a proven way to reduce stress on the eyes.
"Basically, for every 20 minutes that you're in front of the computer, you should take a 20 second break and look at something that's 20 feet away," she said. "What that does is it allows the eyes to relax."
Dr. Gontarek says dryness in particular comes from a lack of blinking that typically comes with looking at a screen too close.
But a face mask can also be a factor if it's not worn correctly.
"The best way we can kind of address that is of course to have a better fitting mask, but also to utilize artificial teardrops which really aren't medicated. They're just moisture but that might help to get that moisture back on the eyes so that everything is more comfortable for them," she said.
The good news is when the kids get home, the mask can come off and that's when Dr. Gontarek wants her patients to get outside anyway.
"The more up close work that a person does (with a screen), the more likely they are to become nearsighted," she said.