Fix Digital Eye Strain Now to Keep Your Vision
Our eyes are the packhorses of the modern world.
We work at computers all day long, stare at our phones in between, watch TV when we get home, and all the while they take the strain — literally.
What I’m talking about is digital eye strain. One of the main problems of digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome is that when using screens, we only blink around 5-10 times a minute — instead of the standard 15 times a minute. Because of this, our eyes become dry.
Add this to the fact our eyes are constantly adjusting and focusing due to the small print and pixelated images on our screens, and the inevitable outcome is chronic dryness and strain. This often means that even after just a morning’s work on the computer, only a full night’s sleep will do to make your eyes feel comfortable again.
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Luckily, there are many things you can do to minimise the effects of digital eye strain and help prevent it from even happening in the first place.
Become aware of it
The first and most important step to overcoming digital eye strain is becoming aware of it. When you know it’s a condition and you understand a bit about why it happens, you can then start taking the steps to help manage and mitigate it.
One of those steps is blinking more often. It’s hard to remember to consciously blink when you’re focusing intently at work or lost in an episode of Game of Thrones at home. In the meantime, though, you can also provide your eyes with some extra moisture with the aid of eye drops.
Tip: Professor Reinstein favours the online tool Blinking Matters to help him out during the working day, which uses a webcam to measure your blink rate.
Lubricated eye drops work by supplementing your eyes with various elements that are naturally found in your tears. They can thus offer short-term relief for dry eyes and keep your eyes moist and comfortable, particularly when using a screen for long periods or in a dry environment like an air-conditioned office or aeroplane cabin.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce digital eye strain is by giving your eyes a break every so often with the 20-20-20 rule. By breaking up the time you spend using screens and doing exercises at regular intervals, the 20-20-20 rule means your eyes are much less likely to dry out and are better able to recover throughout the day.
To integrate the rule into your day; every 20 minutes, stop what you’re doing and look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. You’ll be relaxing the little muscles in your eyes that help in focusing, while also giving them some much needed time to blink normally.
Blinking more, supplementing with artificial tears, and using the 20-20-20 rule all help manage the problem, but they don’t help prevent digital eye strain from occurring in the first place.
For that, you need to look to the environment and make sure it’s optimally adjusted to suit your eyes. If you’re working at a computer, you can start by adjusting your screen’s brightness so that it is approximately the same as the brightness in the surrounding area. Remember, brighter is not always better.
Next, you can change the text size and contrast to ensure it’s not causing strain and is easy to read — black text on a white background typically works best. Some people benefit from inverting the colour scheme so that white backgrounds become black, and the black text becomes white.
Lastly, you can adjust the colour temperature of your screen. Blue light — short-wavelength visible light that sits just above invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the spectrum — carries high amounts of energy and is associated with eyestrain, insomnia, and even permanent retina damage when the light is intense. The opposite of blue light is longer wavelength hues such as red and orange which carry less energy and are much easier on your peepers.
Ask any expert about dealing with digital eye strain and they’ll likely tell you to, before anything else, have a comprehensive eye exam. In fact, it’s considered good practice for anyone who is going to work at a computer to get their eyes checked first.
Refractive error, such as long-sightedness or short-sightedness, can cause your eyes to have a difficult time focusing and thus contribute to eye strain. It’s not as easy as getting the right prescription glasses or contact lenses, though, as they can also cause another layer or problems. Glasses may cause glare and headaches and contact lenses may increase dryness even more.