Avoiding Eye Strain in a Digital Era - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on January 31, 2017

Man at computer with strained eyes

Avoiding Eye Strain in a Digital Era

Man at computer with strained eyesChances are you are one of the 90% of Americans using digital devices for more than 2 hours a day. If you work with a computer, you might even be one of the 60% of Americans who look at a digital screen for 5 or more hours per day. If so, you might be familiar with the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as Digital Eye Strain:

  • Eye irritation, including dryness, redness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Inability to focus
  • Twitching eyelid
  • Headaches
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain

According to Chester Cheng OD, optometrist at PIH Health, these symptoms don’t tend to last very long, but they may affect the quality of your vision in the long term. This strain is caused in part by the difficulty eyes have in trying to read a digital screen for prolonged periods of time, which taxes the eye muscles.

What steps can we take to minimize strain?

Go the distance. Make sure your station setup puts your screen around 24 inches away from your eyes, and the screen center about 15 degrees below your eye level. This downward angle lets your eyelids cover a larger area of your eyes, reducing dryness.

Get the lighting right. Try to reduce the amount of light your eyes have to deal with by removing light sources in front or behind your screen, using fixtures or bulbs with softer light, and closing shades or blinds when necessary.

Minimize lens glare. Sometimes your glasses may be contributing to bothersome glare by reflecting light from elsewhere in the room. Consider wearing glasses with anti-reflective coatings on the lenses to reduce this type of ambient glare.

Personalize your settings. The buttons on the sides of your monitor can make a big difference by changing the brightness, contrast, and color temperature of the screen. Additionally, you can adjust your computer’s display settings to enlarge objects and text on your screen.  Software and programs, such as web browsers, typically have a font size setting you can use to enlarge text. A 15-20% increase is enough help your eyes focus better.

Take a break. Or Two. Or three.  When working prolonged hours with a screen, it’s important to give your eyes frequent rests from the intense focus. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes you spend on your computer. Use this time to look at something about 20 feet away to let your eye muscles relax.

Blink. Sometimes we get so involved with the screen that we forget to blink as often as we normally do, around 50% to 70% less often according to some studies. Blinking minimizes dryness by helping moisturize your eyes and strengthen the tear film on their surface.

Get an eye exam. Aside from its importance for overall vision health, an eye exam can help your eye doctor suggest additional measures to reduce strain. Seeing well does not necessarily mean good eye health. Only a comprehensive eye examination can determine if your eyes show signs of damage.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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