Workplace Eye Health

An Interview With Dr. Mark Jacquot

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It is estimated that adults spend an average of 12 hours each day in front of a screen, whether it be a TV, laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet. A recent report from The Vision Council shows that close to 70% of American adults experience some form of digital eyestrain due to constant and intense exposure to electronic devices. With our world moving into the digital age, it’s increasingly important that we protect our eyes, starting in the workplace, where the time spent sitting in front of a computer screen or tablet consumes a large part of our day.

I recently interviewed Dr. Mark Jacquot, LensCrafters’ senior clinical director of eye care and vision care operations, about workplace eye health and how his company is changing the way their  optometrists are performing eye exams in order to diagnose eye problems related to digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome

What does "workplace eye health" really mean?

Workplace eye health is associated with visual hygiene. This means that when we are in the workplace, we should be seeing comfortably and clearly with no eyestrain. Employees need to be aware of the pitfalls of extended eye use during work hours and how the eyes can become fatigued if we do not take frequent breaks and take special precautions regarding our eyes and vision. Visual hygiene also encompasses the effects that UV (ultraviolet) and certain wavelengths of blue light have on the eye at work.

How should we take care of our eyes in the workplace?

We first need to have a complete eye examination to ensure we have the correct eyeglass or contact lens prescription and the appropriate lens technology built into the lens for the specific visual task to be performed; more specifically, on the computer and while using the plethora of digital devices that enhance our life today but yet create tremendous eye fatigue.

What causes digital eyestrain?

There are really three components that are creating more digital eyestrain. The first one is more of a focal component. The idea of being locked in at a very close range has been shown in research to cause eye problems and possibly make one prone to developing nearsightedness when combined with other genetic factors that enhance the propensity to becoming nearsighted.  

Secondly, when we stare at a computer we tend to blink less often. Blinking less creates imbalances in our tear film and people may begin to complain of fluctuating vision, dry eyes or fatigue. People will come in basically complaining of severe eyestrain. We are starting to see more and more children coming in at a younger age with significant myopia (nearsightedness.) This may be a by-product of simply being more educated, but also we are being bombarded by the use of more digital devices, computers, tablets, and small screens.  

The third thing for us to really consider when thinking of digital eyestrain is blue light. Digital devices emit a certain wavelength of blue light. Some blue light is good for us because it controls our circadian rhythms. However, blue light can depress melatonin levels in our body. Excess blue light emitted from digital devices can severely interrupt our sleep patterns, causing irritability and behavior problems. This can put one at risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension and a host of other medical problems. Blue light has also been implicated in worsening the progression of diseases such as macular degeneration.  

What are the symptoms of digital eyestrain?

  • Dryness
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred or fluctuating vision

How can employers help their employees?

They should think about ergonomics and how their workstations are set up. The monitors need to be set up at an appropriate height and possibly certain filters can be used reduce screen glare from the computer screen. The employer should also make sure that they provide an eye exam benefit as a part of the benefits package offered the employer. An eye exam can reveal undiagnosed problems that may create workplace fatigue or make a certain patient at risk for computer vision syndrome and sometimes even systemic problems that affect that affect the entire body.

What are some tips to help the working person reduce digital eyestrain?

Set up your work-space correctly - The top of your monitor should be one inch below eye level and roughly an arm’s length away.When you look up it causes the extraocular muscles in and around your eyes to tense up, along with the muscles in the neck and shoulders. The least stressful position for our eyes and our whole body is looking straight ahead.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule - Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. Looking away from your monitor at an object in the distance forces your eyes to refocus. When we look at on object up close, the muscles in our eyes are flexing and tense, but when we look in the distance, they relax. Over-strained eye muscles cause blurry vision and can lead to vision decline.

Use artificial tears - The average person blinks 15 times per minute. When looking at a monitor, that statistic is cut in half, which is why adults complain about dry eyes after extended exposure to screens. Artificial tears can help keep your eyes hydrated and the muscles relaxed.

Wear glasses with anti-glare lenses - Those who need eye wear specific for screens should consider getting an anti-reflective coating in the lenses to minimize glare from the screen.

How is LensCrafters changing their examination technology to diagnose and treat problems associated with digital eyestrain?

First and foremost, we recommend regular eye exams, preferably every year. At LensCrafters, we are instituting a new system called AccuExam. AccuExam is Lenscrafters' state-of-the-art digital examination technology that can diagnose vision problems in a much more detailed way. It is one of the most advanced examinations that we have been able to provide. AccuExam allows us to quickly and accurately gather data and takes a lot of the guess work out of the patient's hands. The system includes the Marco OPD III Abberometer and the TRS 5100 automatic phoropter. The subjective part of the exam will be shorter, relaxed and will be much less taxing on the patient. It also has excellent software to demonstrate vision problems and how glasses or contacts can correct their vision. The AccuExam also helps to identify problems that could exacerbate digital eyestrain.

Our doctors are still playing a crucial and personalized role in the examination and will give the best recommendation based on the AccuExam results. The system frees the doctor up so that he or she may spend more quality time with the patient discussing their exam results and getting to know the patient on a human level. Our system also includes a wonderful consultation system to aid patients in understanding their vision problem. The whole examination experience will be enhanced by AccuExam.  We are hoping the AccuExam system revolutionizes eye exams and moves optometry into the 21st century.

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