Digital eye strain – what’s the solution?
How many hours a day do you spend with eyes glued to a computer screen? Add to this your time on other digital devices – including smartphones – and, like us, you’re a prime candidate for digital eye strain! Don’t worry though… we have the solution!
But firstly, studies have found that more than half of those who routinely use digital devices display symptoms of what’s become known as ‘computer (or digital) eye strain’. These can present themselves as twitching or red eyes, general eye discomfort, as well as through headaches. Many people who use computers complain of eye strain. Looking at a monitor for a long time can strain your eyes or can make any other problems you are having with your eyes seem more noticeable.
Is it avoidable? No… well, not unless you’re prepared to swap out your iPhone X for a Nokia 3310 and bin your MacBook… but there are simple and far less drastic ways to ease its effect. Let’s examine how…
1. Obey the 20-20-20 rule: this is your first line of defence against digital eye strain… and it’s so straightforward. Every 20 minutes, look beyond your screen at something 20 feet (7 meters) away for 20 seconds. It’ll give your eyes time to rest from your screen’s glare, as well as from its close focus.
2. Blink more often: you may not know this, but staring at a screen (while working and particularly while gaming) reduces our eyes’ natural blink rate! Blinking lubricates. Set yourself a blink-target – once every three paragraphs (or next time you unlock a trophy). It’ll soon become second nature!
3. Eye drops: in the meantime, use eye drops to replace nature’s own moisture – you’ll help reduce dryness and redness.
4. Check your workstation: working in the right conditions can help mitigate the effects of computer eye strain. What can you do? Firstly, how is your lighting? Too much sunlight or excessive room lighting can cause strain. Close the blinds, and dim that light! ‘Soft white’ LED bulbs are more comforting to the eyes. Also, adjust the brightness of your screen – seriously, when did you last do that? Balance it to the brightness of your surroundings – and check the contrast… too much or too little and you’re setting yourself up to have problems. Get this right, and your eyes will thank you. Use a high-res screen too (ask your boss for an upgrade!)
5. Take frequent breaks: get up and move away from your desk a couple of times every hour. Not only will it rest your eyes, you’ll re-set your posture (and reduce neck, back and shoulder strain). Anyway, a few minutes break means you’ll come back to your desk refreshed and energized – and more productive!
6. Wear lenses specifically made for computers: Wearing prescription glasses gives the greatest comfort at your computer. If you wear contact lenses, consider wearing glasses when on your computer as contact lenses can become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work.
7. Workouts for your eyes: you do workouts for the rest of your body – why not your eyes? Here’s a couple you can do at your desk!
a) Hold your thumb around 15cm away from the tip of your nose, directly in front of you. Inhale. As you exhale, look directly beyond your thumb to a point at the other side of the room. Inhale, once again focusing on your thumb. Repeat for two minutes. You’ll feel the muscles in your eyes exercise with every change of focus. But remember to blink!
b) Imagine a large ¥ symbol around three metres in front of you. Trace its lines by moving only your eyes – not by moving your head. Again, you’ll feel the muscles working and, again, remember to blink!
8. Get an eye exam: you should be doing this regularly anyway, but, if it’s been a while, then now is definitely the right time! Let your optician know if you’re experiencing any eye discomfort, describe your working conditions, and let him know the distance you are from your screen when you work – this way he’ll be able to prescribe the best lenses for you.
So, you’re probably wondering what to do next, and whether your eyes will ever be safe again! The good news is, digital eye strain is not a permanent issue. Follow some (or all!) of our suggestions above, and you can make digital eye strain a thing of the past.