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Top tips on preventing eye strain during exam season

Intensive revision may help boost grades but if it causes eye strain, students are at risk of failing not just their exams but also their future health and wellbeing.

It’s the time of year when students are pouring over textbooks and staring at intently at computer screens preparing for their exams. Intensive revision may help boost grades but if it causes eye strain, students are at risk of failing not just their exams but also their future health and wellbeing.

Eye strain can cause a range of symptoms including raging headaches, dry eyes and blurred vision. In some cases, eye strain could also cause permanent damage to eyesight.

Here, Mesha Tanna, Senior Optometrist at Optical Express, reveals her six top tips for protecting eyes in the build-up to exams.

1.    Ensure your work station is comfortable
“It may sound obvious but it’s best to sit at a proper desk so that you are not crouched,” advises Mesha. "Your screen should be a little below eye level and at least half a metre away. It is also important to have suitable lighting to reduce glare.” 

2.    Rest your eyes regularly
“Students who focus intensely on screens and text books for a significant period of time are at risk of pseudomyopia – a temporary form of short-sightedness which causes blurry distance vision and can last for several days,” says Mesha. To prevent the condition, caused by spasm of the ciliary muscle in the eye, Mesha recommends the 20-20-20 rule; looking away every 20 minutes at something at least 20ft away for at 20 seconds.

3.    Be aware of harmful blue violet light
“Exposure to the blue light emitted by computer screens and other digital devices including smartphones and tablets can damage the retinal cells and is linked to a greater risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness,” says Mesha. She recommends regular breaks and trying specialist glasses, such as Neva Max Blue UV, stocked by Optical Express, that filter the harmful component in blue light. Mesha also warns that viewing digital devices before bedtime can upset your sleeping pattern and take you longer to fall asleep as the melatonin hormone, which prompts tiredness, is reduced.

4.    Blink frequently
Mesha says: “People blink less frequently when using computers so stick a Post-it to your screen to remind yourself if need be. If your eyes feel dry and gritty lubricating eye drops can provide relief and if you’re working from home consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. If you naturally suffer from dry eyes, it is worth consulting an optician as an underlying condition may be to blame.” 

5.    Use the correct eyewear if you already require vision correction
“Long-sighted people may be able to see adequately close up if the strength of the prescription is low and not require prescribed glasses but they may require a small prescription to undertake close work for long periods,” says Mesha. “Contact lens wearers should also bear in mind that some lenses have a time limit to the number of hours they can work.  If you plan to study into the evening and there is a chance you could become too tired and forgetful to remove your lenses, consider switching to contact lenses with increased oxygen permeability for the duration of the exam season.”

6.    Have an eye test
“If you experience headaches, discomfort or are in any way worried about your eyesight consult an optician,” Mesha advises. “It is recommended that most people have an eye test every two years but recent research suggests that about 40% of young people are not going for regular eye tests.”* 

  • Date published: 07th May 2015
  • Written by: Mesha Tanna

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