In today’s world of staying at home and working from home, a lot of us have increased our digital screen time. While watching TV or staring at your computer screen for prolonged periods will not damage your vision, it can cause your eyes to feel uncomfortable. You may have heard the term “Digital Eye Strain”. Symptoms include feeling dry eye, tearing, burning, headaches, blurred vision, and feeling tired or achy around your eyes. These symptoms can occur with any near vision tasks like reading or sewing when done for prolonged periods. They can also occur at any age, this includes children on their digital devices (iPad, phone, etc) for long periods.
While it is healthy to check in with your digital screen time usage, it is unlikely that we can cut back on a lot of our digital use due to the current times we live in. Fortunately, we have some tips we’d like to share with you on reducing your digital eye strain.
Dry Eye & Digital Eye Strain
One of the primary symptoms of Digital Eye Strain is dry eye. Try to make an effort to remember to blink while doing tasks that require prolonged periods of reading. Studies have shown our blink rate decreases from 15 times per minute to 5-7 times per minute while using the computer. Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help improve your tear film health. You can lubricate your eyes with artificial tears to moisturize your eyes. We also recommend a complete eye exam to evaluate your risk factors for dry eye and offer treatment recommendations.
Combat Digital Eye Strain with the 20-20-20 Rule
Take regular breaks every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to focus on a distant object 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. This helps reduce accommodative strain (the small muscles in your eye helping you to focus up close), reminds you to blink, and reset your eyes.
Wear Glasses To Help Digital Eye Strain
Consider wearing glasses when watching a digital screen. Uncorrected astigmatism and presbyopia can cause visual discomfort. Speak to your eye doctor regarding your need for prescription glasses for reading.
How Blue Light Causes Digital Eye Strain
Blue light is very fatiguing to the eyes and unfortunately is emitted at high levels from our electronic devices. Blue blocker anti-reflective coating can also be added to any prescription pair of glasses. Don’t need prescription glasses for the computer? No problem! They also can be made with no prescription at all! However, not all blue blocker lenses are created equal. Talk to your eye doctor about which works best while still being cost-effective. Blue blocker lenses have not been found to decrease the chance of developing age-related macular degeneration or any other retinal disease.
How Close is Too Close When Causing Digital Eye Strain
Keep an appropriate distance between your eyes and screen. Harmon’s distance is a good rule of thumb to know how close is too close. Very simply put, if you make a fist and put it underneath your chin, nothing you are reading should come any closer than your elbow! We may not have this issue on a Zoom call, but those cell phones tend to want to sit at the end of our noses!
While it is very important to think about your eye health, it’s equally important to remember your children’s eyes as well. Kids growing up now are constantly being asked to use some kind of electronic device, even for educational purposes! Just because they are young does not mean they are immune to the effects of digital eye strain. The tips above apply to all ages and capabilities.
References:Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2018;3(1):e000146. Published 2018 Apr 16. doi:10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146