As the need for technology and computer use increases over time, so does the chance of developing digital eye strain. Fear not though, digital eye strain can be remedied at home through mindful practices like taking breaks from viewing digital screens and paying close attention to your posture. If you are unsure if you are being affected by digital eye strain, book an appointment with one of our optometrists.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is a form of eye strain that is influenced by viewing digital screens for prolonged periods of time.
Eye strain is a common condition that occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as while driving long distances or staring at computer screens and other digital devices. Eye strain is typically not a serious condition and can be alleviated without any intrusive treatments.
Viewing a computer or digital screen makes our eyes work harder. As a result of the characteristics and high visual demands involved in computer and digital screen viewing, it makes many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms. Uncorrected vision problems can increase the severity of digital eye strain symptoms.
Viewing a computer or digital screen is different when compared to reading information off of a physical print. Often, the letters on a computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.
The viewing distances and angles used when viewing digital screens are also different compared to those commonly used for other reading or writing tasks. As a result, focusing and moving your eyes for digital screen viewing can place additional demands on the visual system. In addition, if you already have minor vision problems, it can often significantly affect comfort and performance at a computer or while using other digital screen devices.
In most cases, symptoms of digital eye strain can occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. People who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day have a greater risk of developing digital eye strain.
Eye strain signs and symptoms include:
- Sore, tired, burning, or itching eyes
- Watery or dry eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Sore neck, shoulders, or back
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open
7 Ways to Relieve Digital Eye Strain
1. Take Breaks
Adhering to the 20/20/20 rule can help alleviate digital eye strain symptoms on a short-term basis. How it works is for every 20 minutes you spend at your computer, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Taking regular breaks from your computer screen will give your eyes some time to readjust and relax.
2. Adjust Your Posture
Viewing a computer is most comfortable when your eyes are looking downward. Your computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
Your desk chair should be comfortably padded and conform to your body. The height of your chair should be readjusted so your feet rest flat on the floor.
Make sure that you are not hunching over while using your computer, as this can cause more severe back issues as well as contributing to digital eye strain.
3. Adjust the Lighting
Position your computer screen in an optimal position to avoid glare, particularly from overhead lighting or windows. To help further reduce glare, you can reposition the blinds or drapes on your windows and replace the light bulbs with ones that have lower wattage.
When viewing digital screens, most people will blink less than usual, which can contribute to dry eyes. Blinking will produce tears that moisten and refresh your eyes. If you can, try to focus on blinking more often when using computers and digital devices.
5. Eye Drops
Over-the-counter eye drops can help relieve digital eye strain, but it is important to first consult your optometrist on whether or not your eyes are suitable for eye drops.
6. Choosing the Right Eyewear
Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses may not help in reducing the effects of digital eye strain. Your optometrist might recommend getting blue light blocking glasses if you are struggling with digital eye strain.
7. Get an Eye Examination
The first step to remedying all forms of eye strain is to receive a comprehensive eye examination. Through an examination and a follow-up conversation, your optometrist will be able to recognize if you are currently being affected by digital eye strain and can recommend a solution that will help alleviate your issues.