How To Prevent And Treat Computer Eye Strain
Remember when parents told their kids they'd get square eyes if they sat too close to the TV? Okay, as threats go, that was a bit over-the-top. But the underlying issue was real -- the danger of suffering eye strain.
Now, most of us spend many hours a day sitting inches away from screens, just like those pint-sized TV addicts, and then wondering why our eyes get so sore!
Eye health experts even have a name for this modern malaise: computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain (DES). It affects up to 90% of computer workers.
You may think it's just the price we pay for those long hours of viewing. But, unless we take positive action to prevent or treat it, DES can lead not only to tiredness and eye twitching but also to long-term vision damage.
What is Computer Eye Strain?
Computer eye strain is a broad term used to describe discomfort and vision problems from viewing flat screen devices including computers, tablets and phones. Symptoms include tired and even painful eyes, blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes and neck, and shoulder pain.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), this eye strain is made worse if users also have uncorrected vision problems, including those caused by short- or long-sightedness and aging.
Many of the visual symptoms experienced by users are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work or use of the digital device, AOA says. However, some individuals may experience continued reduced visual abilities, such as blurred distance vision even after stopping work at a computer.
Tips For Preventing Eye Strain
First, you need to check out your general eye health. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, computer users should have a comprehensive eye exam every year.
During the test, you should tell your eye doctor how much time you spend on the computer and roughly how far away from your eyes the screen is positioned.
From the results of this test, you may need to correct your vision. Your optometrist may also prescribe glasses specifically for using the computer, in addition to any you wear normally. They may feature anti-reflective coatings and blue light filters. More on this below.
Note that some research suggests contact lens wearers are more likely to suffer from eye strain, mainly because they're four times more likely to have dry eyes.
Once you know your vision is okay or correctly adjusted for computer use, here are some of the actions you should consider for limiting eye strain while on phone, tablet or computer.
Lighting: The biggest challenge to your computer vision actually comes not from the screen but the amount of surrounding light. If it's too bright, especially from sunlight, you should close the drapes (or blinds). Electric lighting should also be lower than normal. Regular fluorescents are a particular problem and should be avoided if possible. If you can't reduce the light, consider fitting an anti-glare screen.
The right screen: Still using an old-style, boxy cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor? These screens have a constant flicker. It's so fast, you can't see it but it does affect your eyes. Replace it with a modern flat-panel device. Prices of flat screens have fallen dramatically in recent years. Opt for the highest resolution screen you can afford -- the image will be sharper. And even though high resolution generally means smaller characters, you can use the computer's display settings to increase size.
Screen adjustment: Even a modern, high-resolution screen won't prevent eye strain if it's not properly adjusted to the right levels of brightness, color and contrast. You may have to experiment with settings to achieve the right levels. What you're looking for is the "Goldilocks setting" -- not too bright and not too dark, with color neither too rich nor insipid. Experts also say that your screen's reading text size should be about three times the smallest you can actually read from your normal computer position.
Seating posture: Proper body positioning for computer use includes having the upper and center section of screen at eye level, at a distance of 18 to 30 inches. Sit upright, with your thighs parallel to the floor.
Three Important Actions
Eye care : There are three important actions you should take to help your eyes cope with the strain of computer viewing:
- Try to get into the habit of blinking more frequently. This lubricates the eye surface. Normally we blink about 15 times a minute but this rate is more than halved during computer use. Every 20 minutes or so, blink a dozen times slowly.
- Use "artificial tears" -- a gentle, soothing liquid you can buy over the counter at drug stores -- to add further lubrication. Look for products that say something like "reduces irritation and dryness". Experts at the renowned Mayo Clinic suggest symptoms might also be relieved via natural products such as bilberry extract and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
- Take frequent screen breaks. Just looking away from the screen at a distant object for a few seconds every few minutes can help.
Environment: If the air around you ("ambient air" as they call it) is dry or smoky, your eyes are more likely to suffer. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Avoid smoke and direct blasts of air such as that from air conditioning or a fan.
What is Blue Light?
You might have heard warnings about night-time computer use and its bad effects on sleep.
One reason for this is the so-called "blue light" that's emitted by modern computer and TV screens.
Its correct name -- high-energy visible (HEV) light -- tells you a little about what it does. It stimulates the brain. Not only that; there's also evidence that too much HEV could cause damage to the retina, which, in the long-term could damage eyesight or even lead to blindness.
Although the effects have not been fully researched, it makes sense to do all you can to eliminate blue light when using your computer.
This can be achieved either by wearing glasses with a blue lens filter or by activating settings on your computer (or mobile device) that reduce the blue light output by dimming and yellowing the screen.
It's important that everyone in your family enjoys good eye health.
Particularly, if you have children, make sure they're following the safety precautions we’ve outlined.
And, by the way, did you know that insurance may help protect your eyesight, by paying towards the cost of regular exams or covering the cost of replacement for damaged or lost glasses.
If this is something you'd like to know more about, please get in touch with Aldrich Taylor Insurance today at: 818-841-2940