Digital screens have become an increasingly prominent part of our lives in recent decades.
Whether you work from home on your computer, work from an office on your computer, or simply own a smartphone, you are likely spending a significant portion of your day with your eyes fixed on a bright screen, and this can result in the discomforts of digital eye strain. All it takes is two hours of screen time per day to have a 90% risk of developing digital eye strain, so there’s no wonder over ten million people go to eye doctors about it every year.
Recognize the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain
Chances are very good that a condition this common affects many of our patients without them realizing it. Here are some of the symptoms associated with digital eye strain:
- The eyes feeling either unusually dry or very watery
- An itching or burning sensation in the eyes
- Double vision or blurred vision
- Frequent headaches and soreness in the shoulders, neck, or back
- Greater light sensitivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Struggling to keep your eyes open
These symptoms can have a serious impact on productivity, which is a real problem for those who do most or all of their work on their computer. What can we do to protect our eyes from screens when reducing screen time isn’t an option? Fortunately, there are a lot of easy strategies to minimize digital eye strain.
Arrange Your Workspace With an Eye for Comfort
The angle of your computer screen to your eyes can make a big difference. For maximum eye comfort, position it at least 20 inches from your eyes (if possible), slightly below eye level, angled upward. Place any reference materials you use somewhere that you won’t need to turn your head constantly to look at them.
Other Light Sources Can Contribute to the Problem
The screen on its own might not be giving you as much trouble as a combination of the screen, the overhead lighting, and glare from the windows. Try to eliminate sources of glare while maintaining the comfortable screen/eye distance and angle. If you can’t move your workspace around that much, a glare filter for your screen could be a good alternative.
Make the 20-20-20 Rule Part of Your Routine
One reason digital eye strain is so common is that we have a tendency to blink less often while looking at screens than we would otherwise. A good trick to make up for this is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break to focus on something at least 20 feet away. Setting reminders will help you get into the habit until it becomes natural.
You’ve Heard of Sunglasses; How About Computer Glasses?
Just as we can (and should) protect our eyes from the sun with sunglasses, now there are special computer glasses designed to filter out blue light and make it easier to look at a screen for long periods. This won’t necessarily be a viable option for graphic designers who need to be able to see the full color spectrum for their work, but it’s something to consider for anyone else.
The Optometrist Can Help!
Another great resource you have when fighting digital eye strain is your optometrist! We don’t want any of our patients to continue suffering these symptoms in silence, so please bring your digital eye strain woes to us. We can make sure nothing else is wrong and recommend solutions.