It’s no secret that the amount of time we spend looking at a screen is on the rise especially during the past year! Everything from business meetings, classrooms, to social events like weddings and birthday parties have moved online. With screen time usage at a record high, computer vision syndrome (which is characterized by symptoms of eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, and dryness) is becoming more common. It’s important to know how to prevent eyestrain and digital fatigue.
When we focus on items such as a computer, tablet, or phone, our eyes converge. If we focus for long periods of time it can cause eye strain and eye fatigue. It seems like a benign problem, but working up close can seem deceiving. Imagine carrying a one-pound weight around all day. It would be relatively easy at first, but after time it would cause your arms to become sore. Your eye muscles are similar in that they are susceptible to discomfort after long hours of work. This might be why it feels good to close your eyes or rub your temples at the end of a computer session.
Since school and work are unavoidable, and in light of the increased screen time we are facing, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Practice good visual hygiene
It’s important to give our eyes a break, especially during a busy workday. This doesn’t mean going out to buy a cup of coffee or scrolling through social media. It’s as simple as relaxing your gaze at a faraway point. It is recommended that for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break by looking 20 feet away. Conveniently, this is called the 20-20-20 rule. When you’re not working, having blocks of time that are screen-free further allows your eyes to rest and recover.
Use computer glasses to prevent eye strain
A mild prescription given by an optometrist can help you see things better up close, thus relieving some of the pressure on your eyes if long periods of screen time can’t be avoided. Certain coatings such as anti-reflective lenses can reduce glare making vision clearer and more comfortable. The more recent blue light blocking lenses are touted to reduce computer strain by filtering out blue light, though studies remain inconclusive on how effective they are.
Avoid using the phone
It’s tempting to answer emails and read documents on a phone or tablet. But try to do whatever you can on a monitor or laptop. If you are watching for leisure, switch to your television screen. Pushing those screens back makes a difference!
Adjusting your monitor distance, room lighting, and brightness settings can make your screen time experience a more pleasant one. Also having a comfortable, sturdy chair at the proper height can help as well. Keep your computer monitor at arm’s length (25-35” away). Adequate ambient room lighting is also important because if you work on a monitor in a dark room, your eyes will have to adjust to the screen. Experiment with different display settings, such as colors, brightness, contrast, and font size to find which one is the best for you.
Dry eye syndrome
It’s not uncommon for your eyes to feel dry due to increased screen time. As we zone in on work, we tend to blink less, causing our tears to evaporate. Symptoms include a sandy, gritty feeling in our eyes. Other end of the day symptoms are reflex tearing and burning. Some of these symptoms can be relieved by using over-the-counter artificial teardrops. Other at-home treatments include warm compresses and gently washing your eyes before bedtime. If your symptoms are more severe, contact your local eye doctor who specializes in dry eye syndrome to offer further treatment.
Though screens seem inescapable, you can develop habits to protect your eyes and keep them comfortable and healthy!