Take a moment and ask yourself: how many screens do you look at each day? From desktop computers to laptops to tablets to phones to TVs, we’re surrounded by digital devices. While all these screens bring convenience and delight to our lives, they can also cause discomfort as our poor eyes struggle to keep up with our screen use.
That discomfort has a name - a couple, in fact. “Digital eye strain” and “computer vision syndrome” can both refer to the effects digital screens have on us. Today, our practice wants to help you identify those effects, as well as take action against them in the interest of our health and comfort.
Digital Screen Use & Its Impact On Your Eyes
The source of digital eye strain is surprisingly simple: exhaustion. The condition is caused by repetitive use or overuse of the eyes. Consider that the ideal working scenario involves us tackling different tasks every hour or two. This shift would provide a natural break for our eyes, which have trouble focusing on the same task for more than a couple hours at a time.
Since so many of our work tasks now require computers, however, our eyes are becoming overworked by constant screen use. About 80 percent of American adults report using digital devices for more than two hours per day with nearly 67 percent using two or more devices at once. And many of us then add to our eyes’ workload by using phones, tablets, and similar devices after we leave the office.
All that screen use leads to eye strain. Digital eye strain presents with symptoms like dry eyes, red eyes, blurred vision, fatigue, and headaches. And if you’ve experienced these things while using screens of any kind, you’re not alone. Studies show that eye strain symptoms occur in 50 to 90 percent of workers who use computers. That means at least half the population - though likely much more - deals with discomfort related to eye strain. It’s no wonder that these uncomfortable symptoms then lead to lower productivity and more work-related errors!
Don’t think these issues are limited to the workforce, however. The prevalence of screens in daily life means that our children are also vulnerable to eye strain symptoms. The good news is that the same tricks that make adults’ eyes feel better, will also work for children!
What You Can Do To Help Your Eyes Out
So what’s to be done about eye strain? It’s not practical to cut screens and digital devices out of our lives! Fortunately, there are other things you can do to reduce their impact on your eyes:
- Always make sure your glasses prescription is up to date. Having an outdated prescription will make your eyes work even harder. An annual eye exam will ensure your glasses are always fine-tuned to your vision needs. (Pro-tip: be sure to mention your screen use to your eye doctor, as they may do extra testing based on how far away you typically sit from a computer.)
- Buy computer glasses. It's easier than ever to buy eyewear designed to protect your eyes from digital eye strain. Many glasses companies allow you to buy prescription blue light reflecting lenses. That means it's possible to buy trendy glasses that reflect a portion of the blue light generated by screens. Since our eyes work harder to process blue light, reflecting some of this light away will help reduce your workload and relieve your eye strain symptoms.
- Up the orange factor. In addition to using computer glasses to reduce the amount of blue light your eyes take in, you can adjust the color temperature of your screen display. Lowering the amount of blue light emitted by a color display makes it easier for your eyes to use a screen. And there are plenty of apps that darken computer screens - or rather, tinge them in reddish hues. You can also enable “Night Mode” on many devices. The result is the same: adding darker hues to a device cuts down on blue light and makes your eyes more comfortable!
- Sit right. Poor posture can contribute to digital eye strain, as it forces your eyes to work harder from a disadvantaged position. To prevent this, adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height to support your head and neck. (Your computer screen should sit 20 to 24 inches from your eyes, and the center of the screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes.)
- Use proper lighting. Excessively bright light sources, as well as poorly lit spaces, are often to blame for eye strain symptoms. Every person has different preferences, however, so it’s worth experimenting with your lighting to determine what creates the most comfortable work environment for you. (As a general rule, many computer users find their eyes feel better if they can avoid working under overhead fluorescent lights. Additionally, you may want to use a desk lamp - just make sure it doesn't shine into your eyes or onto your computer screen.)
- Beware of glare. Lighting is only half the battle, as the glare created in an office can be just as aggravating to the eyes. Screen users should consider installing an anti-glare screen, as well as adjusting their work station to eliminate or at least reduce glare sources.
- Don't squint! Trying to read tiny text on a screen is a lose-lose situation. Not only will your eyes hurt from the strain of reading the text - they'll likely hurt as you bring your screen closer and closer to your face in an effort to make reading easier. The better solution? Enlarge text and default views for easier viewing.
- Blink! Blinking plays a vital role in the health of the eye. It moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. But when we work on a computer, we tend to blink less frequently, as we get engrossed in what we're seeing and this natural reaction is delayed. Making a conscious effort to blink more will help you fight eye strain. Set reminders if you have to - it's worth it!
- Take 20. One of the most helpful tricks to fight digital eye strain is called the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is often all your eyes need to recharge, helping to relieve eye strain symptoms.
While these nine actions can feel like a lot of work, even implementing a couple of them can go a long way in making your eyes feel better throughout the day. We recommend integrating these habits and tricks into your life, one at a time, until they become second nature. You'll feel better and your eyes will thank you for your efforts!
Do you have questions about digital eye strain? Do you need to schedule an annual exam to ensure your prescription is up to date? Our team is available and ready to address your concerns regarding your vision and your health. Call an office near you today, or contact us online to request your appointment!