Digital eye strain is an increasingly common condition as digital devices become more ingrained into our daily lives. Digital eye strain, eye fatigue and computer vision syndrome (CVS) are conditions that result from extended exposure to digital screens such as computers, smartphones, tablets and televisions from a combination of factors including the blue light radiation emitted from the devices and the pixelated content that is difficult for our eyes to focus on.
Symptoms of computer or digital eyestrain tend to be noticed after someone has used a digital device for as little as 2 hours a day. Studies show that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device and 70% of adults report some symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include:
- Blurred or double vision
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Dry or watery eyes
- Red or irritated eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Sensitivity to light or
- Neck, shoulder or back pain (caused by compromised posture to adjust to vision difficulty).
Digital eye strain also impacts your ability to focus and lessens productivity. Too many students and adults suffer the impacts and symptoms of digital eye strain needlessly for years, or even decades, as they are not aware of the cause.
Protecting Your Eyes from Digital Eye Strain and Blue Light
There are a number of options for reducing digital eye strain and your exposure to blue light which include workspace ergonomics, computer glasses, specific optical lenses and protective coatings. The first step is to have a comprehensive eye exam, making sure you speak to your optometrist about how often you use a computer and digital device. This will help your optometrist to get the full picture of your eye and vision needs in order to determine which option is best for you. It was also help the optometrist to identify any underlying issues that could be worsening your symptoms.
Alleviating Digital EyeStrain
Proper Lighting and Screen Brightness: You want the screen to be as bright as the surrounding environment or the brightest object in the room (depending on what is most comfortable for you). Therefore interior lighting or sunlight from the outdoors should be dimmed or blocked. Use fewer light fixtures or lower voltage light bulbs and close curtains or blinds when possible. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your monitor to the levels that are most comfortable.
Reduce Glare: Glare is a significant cause of computer eyestrain so it is important to minimise it as much as possible. Set up your computer where glare from windows won’t affect your screen or cover windows when this is not possible. Glare can also reflect from walls and shiny finishes on desks and other surfaces. An anti-glare screen on your monitor or an anti-reflective (AR) or anti-glare coating applied to your eyewear can also help to minimise glare and the strain it causes to your vision.
Screen size and distance: You want to make sure you are using a high quality (such as a flat LCD) screen that has a relatively large display (look for a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches) and is located directly in front of your line of vision. Your viewing distance should be about an arm’s length away with the top of the monitor at about eye level or slightly below.
Keep Eyes Moist: When viewing a digital screen or monitor for an extended period of time, we tend to blink less frequently (about ⅓ as often as we should). Blinking however, is critical for keeping the eyes moist, which allows them to remain clear and comfortable and to avoid dry eyes, irritation, blurry vision or eye fatigue. Eye drops may needed to keep your eyes moist throughout the day.
Focus on blinking by setting a timer for every 20 minutes and slowly closing and opening your eyes 10 times. Keep a bottle of artificial tears handy to use when your eyes are feeling dry.
Give Your Eyes a Break: Schedule and take frequent breaks from your screen. Follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Take this time to stand up and stretch your back, neck and legs as well.
Computer glasses reduce eye strain by adjusting the focus slightly so your eyes feel like they are focusing on something further away. They also may have a tint to remove the glare and block blue light from entering into your eyes. There are a number of options for computer eyewear, both if you need prescription eyewear and not. Speak to your optometrist about what the best options are for you.
It is important to know that both adults and children alike are susceptible to computer eye strain from computers and digital devices. With the growing use of such devices in our everyday lives it is important to start educating ourselves and our children on how to combat the negative effects of these devices on our eye health and how we can assist your productivity at school and the practice.