Overusing devices can lead to early vision problems

A 2017 study by Ernst & Young found that Singaporeans spent most of their waking hours - an average of 12 hours and 42 minutes - on digital devices every day.

That is pretty much most of our waking hours, and the effects are not ideal. About 80 per cent of people here are myopic by the time they are 18 years old. And while research has not quite backed this up, doctors and optometrists are increasingly pointing their fingers at heavy usage of smartphones for early onset of presbyopia (lao hua in Mandarin).

In Singapore, people are getting presbyopia at as early as 37 years old - it typically affects only those in their 40s and above. While genes have a say in how well we see, our lifestyle habits play a heavy part in preventing eye strain, improving vision and reducing the risk of conditions such as glaucoma, early cataracts and macular degeneration, which may eventually cause blindness.

To protect your eyes, be sure to practise these habits.

Get an eye exam at least once a year

We are not talking about a cursory eyesight check but a comprehensive eye examination to pick up on things such as vision changes, status of corneal health, eye diseases and other abnormalities. While a number of eyewear stores offer this service, Videre Eyecare at Forum The Shopping Mall has introduced a fully digital eye examination journey (priced from $60 to $120) using Essilor equipment.

Forget clunky test lenses that need to be switched out manually - the digital vision test using the brand's new phoropter is more comfortable, efficient and accurate. Plus, a new analyser device can pick up your day and night vision, abnormalities, pupil responses, eye diseases and corneal health in just 90 seconds - it used to take up to an hour using different equipment. Your consultation also differs based on age. With children and teens, the optometrists in-store may draw attention to slowing down the progression of myopia.

Those aged 17 to 34 may be educated on proper use of digital devices and healthy vision habits to reduce eye strain, while those aged 35 and above will be tested for presbyopia and other visual health issues.

Eat right

Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, zinc and lutein may reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.Load up on oily fish - salmon, mackerel and whitebait - along with leafy greens such as spinach and kale.Foods high in zinc include meats, shellfish, nuts and seeds.

Also, by keeping to a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight, you lower your chances of Type 2 diabetes - a chronic disease that can cause poor vision, glaucoma and even blindness.

Wear sunglasses

Just like your skin, your eyes need ultraviolet (UV) protection.

Over time, exposure to the sun's rays can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and pterygium, a growth on the pupil that causes astigmatism. Look for a pair that blocks out 99 per cent to 100 per cent of UV rays and go for polarised lenses to reduce glare. Wraparound designs prevent rays from coming in from the side.

Abide by 20-20-20 rule

The best thing you can do for your eyes is to cut down your screen time. But if that is not an option during working hours, try this tip. For every 20 minutes that you work on your computer or look at your mobile device, rest your eyes for 20 seconds by looking at a spot 20 feet away.

It is even better if you can get up for a short walk.

Quit smoking

Smoking can damage your optic nerve and increase your chances of getting cataracts and macular degeneration.

If going at it alone is too daunting, try consulting a professional. Health and beauty chain Guardian offers a Smoking Cessation programme where you will be guided by a pharmacist. It comes with nine counselling sessions that are done face-to-face and over the phone.