Spike in student eyestrain during pandemic

A large proportion of university students doing online learning during the pandemic are suffering from eye fatigue, eyestrain, ocular discomfort, headaches and burning eyes, a new study found.  


Students are spending more time in front of a digital display, said researchers Dr Liat Gantz, senior lecturer at the Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, and Professor Mark Rosenfield, College of Optometry at the State University of New York.  


Responding to the Dry Eye Syndrome and Ocular Surface Disease Index questionnaires, 160 Israeli students reported spending 18±9 hours a week studying online, vs the 15±5 hours a week of 163 US students. Of these, 7±7 and 9±3 daily hours were on the computer, and 6±9 and 4±3 hours were on cell phones, respectively. 


The most frequently reported symptoms in each country’s cohorts included eye fatigue (60% and 48%), eye strain (58% and 31%), ocular discomfort (44% and 31%), headaches (43% and 26%), dry eyes (39% and 34%), and burning eyes (40% and 22%).  


The prevalence of ocular eye strain, burning eyes, headaches, ocular discomfort and photophobia was significantly higher in the Israeli cohort (p<0.05), corresponding to population-based studies reporting prevalence of dry eye in these two countries, they said. “The prevalence of dry eye syndrome far surpasses the typical prevalence of mild to severe dry eye, at 15% in the Israeli students and 7% in the US students.” The authors concluded healthcare providers should educate individuals who spend many hours in front of digital displays on how to reduce these symptoms.  


The study findings were presented at the virtual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting, see https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2774975 


For more on dry eye, see NZ Optics’ Dry Eye 2021 special feature: https://eyeonoptics.co.nz/optometry/dryeyeupdate/?documentid=65853320 




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