With the marked increase in the use of digital devices and technology, digital eye strain, or “computer vision syndrome”, has become a fact of life. More than 80 percent of Americans of all ages use digital devices for more than two hours a day, sometimes using multiple devices at a time. Our lives require extended use of computers and this strains the eyes more than looking at print. Eye strain usually starts after about two or more hours in front of a computer screen.
While it’s not serious, eye strain can definitely be an annoyance, especially since most of us work on computers for most of the day. Symptoms include watery or dry eyes, an itching or burning sensation, blurred or double vision, headaches, difficulty concentrating and increased sensitivity to light. Fatigue, long drives and stress can further complicate eye strain.
So, what can we do to avoid this type of strain? Applying these changes to your daily routine can help nip digital eye strain in the bud.
- During the work day, the use of proper lighting is key. Excessive light from any source (e.g. indoors or outdoors) can cause unnecessary strain on the eyes. Glare from walls, windows and other surfaces can make it difficult to see things on your monitor, and excessive lighting from sources above or behind computer users can place additional strain on the eyes. It may be best to turn off extra lights, avoid placing your computer monitor directly in front of a window, and close blinds or shades in the area. If possible, try to blink more often and periodically use artificial tears. This will help refresh your eyes and keep them moist.
- Keep your computer monitor at least an arm’s length from your eyes if possible. Use an LCD, flat-panel computer monitor – it is one of the best ways to reduce eye strain, as LCD screens tend to have less reflective surfaces. Wearing glasses with an anti-reflective coating is also an option.
- Adjusting color and brightness settings is another great way to avoid eye strain; modifying settings on your screen to closely match your surroundings can cut down on strain significantly. When composing or reading long documents on a screen, consider slightly increasing text size and contrast. Color “temperature” adjustments (e.g., lowering the amount of “blue” light in favor of softer “red” and “orange” hues) can also make a difference. Furthermore, slightly reducing the brightness of your monitor can help reduce eye strain.
- Keep your room softly lit while watching television at home.
- Taking frequent breaks and closing your eyes is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to reduce eye strain (and also get a little bit of exercise). Even a walk to get a glass or water or use the restroom can considerably reduce eye strain. During longer breaks like lunch, try and get out of the office, stretch a bit, and absorb some natural light outside (just be sure to wear proper sunglasses).
Last, if eye strain continues to be a problem and you start to develop symptoms above and beyond the normal strain, be sure to make an appointment with your eye care practitioner. Contact us to learn more about caring for your eyes, and let us know how we can help!