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Reducing the strain: How to protect against digital eye strain

Eye Practice
Reducing the strain: How to protect against digital eye strain

Digital eye strain is the discomfort that is felt after prolonged exposure to digital screens. It is a common and often debilitating condition, and becoming an expected  - if unwanted - part of modern living.

 

Who gets it?

Most of us spend more and more time staring at screens rather than sleeping or resting. More than 90% of adults spend more than 2 hours a day on their device screen. Extreme usage results in eye strain symptoms such as:

• Irritated and dry eyes.
• Blurred vision.
• Chronic eye fatigue.
• Neck and back pain.
• Headaches.

 

A few symptoms may be felt temporarily after extended usage of digital devices. In addition to the common symptoms mentioned above, eye strain is linked to disturbances in the REM cycle of sleep.

 

What can you do?

Technology has a positive impact on our lives in many ways, but all positives come with their negatives, and digital eye strain (computer vision syndrome) is no different.

Throwing away your smartphone or iPad for good is not a viable option, as technology is a requirement at a workplace or institution. 

Technology is small enough to fit your hand, and due to this, we are always logged on in our phones. From streaming a live video to attending a video chat or even reading a simple book, we are tethered to our e-reader, tablet or smartphone. 

The digital screen has been around since the late 2000s and in less than ten years has caused serious repercussions for users worldwide.

The treatment options that are available for eye strain may depend on the severity and usage of the device. 

Some people that play video games for prolonged periods at night undergo high levels of eye strain, while other people may use screens for media usage only. 

Like most conditions, prevention is better than cure.

 

What can we do to prevent eye strain?

We can start by making simple changes:

  • Reduce glare: The first step is to start taking precautions when using a computer screen. The laptop should always be placed below eye level, and at least 45cm away from your eyes.  Fingerprints and dust should be cleaned as it may cause vision problems such as reflections and glare. Another smart option is for you to increase the font of the text so that your eyes do not feel stressed. 
  • Smartphones are held increasingly close to our face and may be the cause of eye strain. Our eyes are forced to focus on a text that is very close to our eyes. Use settings to increase font size, which will allow you to hold the phone further from your eyes.
  • The light settings in the work environment should be altered to get rid of any reflections or glare that you may be facing. Reduced contrast is more comfortable and better tolerated than high contrast. Reduced intensity of light will also be helpful.
  • Ergonomics: An adjustable chair that matches the level of your computer screen is preferred. Rather than shifting between a book and a laptop, a document holder should be used.
  • Another element to take care of is the work habit. For how long do you continuously work? If the answer is for more than 20 minutes at once, care should be taken. The 20-20-20 rule is a great one to prevent eye strain. That is to work for 20 minutes and to look into the distance for 20 seconds and blink fully 20 times. Perhaps, a note that says "Blink" may help as a constant reminder. Regular breaks from computer ought to be taken.
  • Always try to keep a backlight on when continuously using a laptop or phone in a dark room. This avoids a high-contrast situation, which can stress the eyes.
  • Avoid dryness: Another temporary relief after continuous usage may be the usage of artificial tears. Eye strain may also occur due to the humidity in the air, for this reason, aim at humidifying the air in your surroundings.
  • Make sure any long-sightedness or astigmatism is corrected with glasses if you are using a computer all day for work.  Small errors that cause no symptoms outdoors can suddenly become problematic under the taxing conditions of the screen.
  • Another helpful solution is blue-blocker glasses. These glasses contain an anti-reflective coating and blue-light filter that reduces the glare from light sources.
    Is the damage permanent?
    Computer vision syndrome is not to be taken as a mild condition as it may cause serious vision problems. There is good news, though. The symptoms are temporary, and as soon as you stop over using your devices, the symptoms will reduce.

 

  • What do I do next?

    If you’re suffering from computer-related eye strain, and have tried some of the strategies about to no effect, it’s time for a comprehensive eye examination to see what’s going on. 
  • This type of eye strain is usually simple enough to improve, or even eliminate.

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