Computer screens, tablets, mobile phones, TVs – you name it, it’s got a screen. These days it feels like our entire lives are dominated by screen time, and that’s been leading to an increase in cases of digital eye strain.
In fact, recent research sponsored by The Vision Council has shown that more than half of those who use digital devices on a daily basis suffer from eye strain.
Some of the most common symptoms of computer-induced eye strain include tired, sore eyes, discomfort, dry, red or puffy eyes, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, and eye twitching.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms or would like to avoid them, here are our best tips on how to reduce eye strain.
If you’re experiencing eye strain, one of the best things you can do is go and get a comprehensive eye examination with your optician optometrist.
During the consultation, it’s important to make sure that you are honest with your optician about how much time you spend using computers and digital devices, whether it be at work or at home.
If you can, measure the distance between your eyes and the computer screen, and bring this measurement to the appointment with your optician so they know how to best advise you.
When using a computer, there are a few other factors that can cause eye strain. One of the biggest culprits when it comes to eye strain is the quality of lighting in your office or home.
Excessively bright light from sunlight or harsh interior lighting can have a detrimental effect on your vision. You should be aiming to have softer lighting at home than in the office.
You can achieve that by eliminating harsh exterior light with curtains or blinds, and also by avoiding fluorescent tube lights. Placing your computer screen away from windows, with windows to your side instead can also help.
Other activities related to eye strain, like watching TV or reading, should also be taken into consideration. Dimming the lights may help reduce eye strain whilst watching TV, but don’t turn them off completely. When reading printed materials, many people find it helpful to position the light source behind you, directing the light onto your page or task.
Another environmental factor that can contribute to eye strain is poor air quality. If you use fans, heating or air conditioning, these can dry out the eyes and lead to irritation. This is a particularly tricky problem if you work in an office where you can’t control the air quality. In this case, using lubricating eye drops can help.
If you’re at home, you can improve the air quality by turning down the heating or air conditioning, or even using a humidifier.
One final tip: try to avoid cigarette smoke, as this also dries out your eyes.
If you’re thinking about how to reduce eye strain when working with computers, the most effective changes will, of course, be related to the computer display itself.
Here are some tips for adjusting your computer display settings:
The light on your device’s screen should also not be brighter than the surrounding room, as screen glare can cause eye strain. If necessary, you can use screen filters.
Poor posture can contribute to some of the problems related to eye strain, such as neck and shoulder tension. Make sure that you adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height so your feet rest comfortably on the floor, and the computer screen is set at around 20 to 24 inches (arm’s length) from your eyes. The centre of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.
To avoid eye strain, try enlarging the text on the screen to best suit your comfort level. This will help when it comes to reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
You can even choose a larger display – a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches can make a difference.
Colour temperature refers to the spectrum of visible light emitted by a colour display.
Blue light is short-wavelength visible light emitted by screens, and it’s this type of light that is more commonly associated with eye strain.
To reduce eye strain, you can reduce the colour temperature of your display to longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red.
Resting your eyes is an essential part of how to reduce eye strain.
That means taking breaks from looking at the screen, using lubricating eye drops, and blinking more often.
When you’re looking at a screen, although you might not be aware of it, you blink less, which leads to your eyes drying up. In fact, most people blink a third less when looking at a screen, and according to studies, many blinks performed during computer work are only partial lid closures.
If you can’t take regular screen breaks, try to make a conscious effort to blink more, as the eyelid will naturally lubricate your eye. Using eye drops helps too, so perhaps ask your optician about which artificial tears they might recommend for daily use. Avoid eye drops designed to remove eye redness, as these may worsen dry eye symptoms.
Doing some simple eye exercises can go a long way to making your eyes feel more rested.
Here are a few to try:
Every twenty minutes, blink very slowly ten times. This will help lubricate your eyes.
Reduce tiring your eyes by looking away from your computer at least every twenty minutes and gazing at a distant object, around twenty feet away, for at least twenty seconds. Some opticians call this the ‘20-20-20 Rule.’ Doing this relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduces fatigue. If you stand up while doing this, you can also give your neck, back and shoulders a much-needed rest.
Take a longer break of about fifteen minutes after every two hours you spend on your devices. Maybe take a walk outside in the natural light during your lunch break in order to give your eyes a break from artificial lights.
If you ask your optician how to reduce eye strain, it’s likely that they will recommend that you use eye glasses more, and may even prescribe customised computer glasses.
Contact lens wearers can be particularly susceptible to dry eyes, as the reduced blink rate caused by extended screen time makes the lenses dry out and become uncomfortable.
If eye strain is really bothering you, it’s worth asking your optician about photochromic lenses or lightly tinted lenses for use when working with computers, to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful blue light.
For more eyecare advice and tips for looking after your eyesight, take a look at our SpaMedica website.
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