Purpose: There has been an enormous increase in the use of gadgets for online classes and entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of digital eye strain (DES), describe the pattern of gadget usage, and analyse the risk factors for DES.Methods: This online survey analysed 941 responses from students of online classes (688), teachers of online classes (45), and general population (208). A pre-validated questionnaire was used to calculate the DES score. Non-parametric tests of medians were used to compare the median DES score, Chi-square test to compare categorical variables, and binary logistic regression to find the predictors of DES.Results: The prevalence of eye strain was higher among students taking online classes compared to the general public (50.6% vs 33.2%; χ2 = 22.5, df = 1, p < .0001). There was an increase in screen time during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic time. The DES score was highest among students attending online classes (p < .0001), in those with eye diseases (p = .001), greater screen time (p = <0.0001), screen distance <20 cm (p = .002), those who used gadgets in dark (p = .017) and those who took infrequent/no breaks (p = .018). The DES scores were proportional to the increase in the number of hours of gadget usage during the pandemic.Conclusion: There is a need to educate people about limiting overall screen exposure and ergonomic methods of screen viewing. Efforts from policymakers to reduce the duration of online classes for students and online work hours for professionals are warranted to control this epidemic of eye strain.
Keywords: Covid-19; Digital eye strain; online classes; risk factors; students.