You might not spend much time worrying about eye strain, but once you start to experience symptoms, you’ll discover that they’re very difficult to ignore. It has become a common problem these days given that so many of us have jobs that require sitting in front of a computer for several hours day after day.
When you’re eyes get dry and tired from intense use, you are experiencing eye strain. Computer use isn’t the only culprit. Your eyes can get from any activity that involves prolonged and intense use. Another good example is driving for long distances.
While it may be troublesome because it makes it hard to focus on your work and get through the day, the good news is that there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it will lead to long-term damage to your eyes and eyesight.
Unless you have an underlying condition that’s causing your eye strain, it should go away once your eyes have had a chance to rest and you’ve taken the necessary measures to reduce the discomfort.
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of eye strain:
- Your eyes feel tired, sore or itchy
- Your eyes are watery or dry
- Distorted vision like blurred vision or double vision
- Problems concentrating
- Greater sensitivity to light
Eye strain caused by the prolonged use of digital devices is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain. Your eyes get tired more quickly from digital devices because you’ll blink less than usual without realizing so your eyes won’t be properly lubricated. There are also additional aggravating factors like poor contrast, flicker, glare, posture, blue light exposure and screen brightness.
Now you know how to recognize the symptoms of eye strain and what causes them. Let’s take a look at our list of eye care tips for the digital age.
Visit Your Eye Doctor
The first step is to schedule a thorough eye exam so you can be sure that this is just eye strain and not a sign of an underlying condition like astigmatism or hyperopia (farsightedness).
Before the exam, the doctor will ask you a few questions regarding your symptoms. They’ll want you to describe them and tell them how long you’ve been having problems, what triggers them and if you’ve noticed that certain actions give you relief. They’ll also want to know for how long you use digital devices per day and if your symptoms have changed over time.
Before you go to the appointment, you’ll want to prepare by writing down your symptoms, your triggers and any relevant medical information like medical conditions and medications.
You should visit an eye doctor once per year since this is one of the most effective steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy and your eyesight sharp.
Optimize Your Workstation
Excessively bright lighting is a common cause of eye strain. Maybe there’s too much light coming through the windows, the interior lighting is too harsh, or the problem comes from the brightness of your computer screen. As a general rule, your screen should only be a bit brighter than your working environment.
If you work remotely, it will be easier because you can implement these changes yourself. On the other hand, if you work in a regular office, you’ll need to discuss these changes with your supervisors.
To begin with, you need to position your desk so that any windows are located on the side rather than in the front or back. If you have a window right in front of you, you might get a nice view, but when it gets too bright outside, you’ll strain your eyes. Your eyes will also be constantly switching between the light coming through the window and the light coming from the screen. Although you don’t realize it, your pupils will be readjusting all day long, making your eyes feel tired and irritated.
On the other hand, if you have windows behind you, it will cause glare – the light will reflect on the screen and in your eyes.
The quality of the equipment you use is essential. Luckily, there are many monitor models currently on the market that are designed to minimize eye strain. They’re anti-glare, anti-flicker, have higher refresh rates and better contrast, adjust the brightness to the environment automatically through sensors, and minimize blue light exposure. Blue light has been shown to not only cause eye strain but also interferes with melatonin production and the sleep cycle. To reduce your exposure to blue light, you can also get anti blue light glasses.
Lastly, the screen should be at a distance of around 25 inches (an arm’s length) away from your eyes and positioned about 5 inches (10-15 degrees) below eye level. The monitor has to be slightly below eyes level so that your eyelids can cover more of your eyeballs and lubricate them.
Keeps Your Eyes Lubricated
You can prevent eye strain by making sure your eyes are well lubricated. Your eyes will get dry faster if they’re exposed to circulating dry air, such as from air conditioning and fans. If you need to use air conditioning or a fan to keep cool, then you’ll want to take regular breaks and set a timer to blink ten times every twenty minutes.
As we mentioned before, when you’re using a computer screen, you’ll tend to blink less often without realizing it. Studies show that people blink on average three times less often when using a digital device.
You can also ask your eye doctor or a pharmacist to recommend artificial tears. They come in the form of eye drops and can be purchased over the counter. You might be more familiar with the type of eye drops that reduce redness. Keep in mind that those work by reducing the size of blood vessels on the surface of your eyes. They are not what you need. Ask specifically for artificial tears. There are many options, with or without preservatives, that will keep your eyes moist and comfortable. The type with preservatives last longer but can’t be used as frequently as the ones without.