Easy on the eyes: Tips for reducing digital eye strain

December 16, 2020

Whenever we expose ourselves to prolonged screen time, we can develop digital eye strain, otherwise known as computer vision syndrome.

With today’s mobile devices, computers and constant connectivity, we put a lot of pressure on our eyes. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced us into a new virtual reality, that pressure has become even worse, and digital eye strain is on the rise

We depend on our eyes for many essential daily activities like driving and reading. That means prioritizing vision health is crucial in preserving your overall quality of life.

“As more people are working from home and having more screen time, I am seeing an increasing number patients suffering from eye strain,” said Eva DeVience, MD, an opthalmologist who practices at Kaiser Permanente. “The good news is that there are ways to alleviate these symptoms.” In most cases, the symptoms are temporary. There are also several tips listed in this article that you can implement to help keep digital eye strain at bay.

 

Know the symptoms

Whenever we strain our body, it’s because we’re using our body in a way that it is unaccustomed to being used. As humans, we all have physical limitations, including our eyes.

Whenever we expose ourselves to prolonged screen time, we can develop digital eye strain, otherwise known as computer vision syndrome. This condition is unique to each individual, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Eye discomfort
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision 
  • Headache
  • Redness

If you experience these symptoms, consider your recent activity levels. If you’ve been reading, watching or otherwise interacting with a screen for extended periods of time, you may be experiencing digital eye strain.

 

Keep track of your screen time

As captivating as electronic devices are, our eyes simply aren’t built for persistent, neverending screen time. Consider setting daily limits on your screen time. Some devices, such as smartphones, have built-in technology that will monitor that for you and send you alerts to keep you on track. 

 

Follow the 20-20-20 rule

A good way to reduce eye strain is to take breaks on a regular basis. To do that, eye care professionals recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Once every 20 minutes, look away from the screen and focus on something 20 feet away or farther. Look there for 20 seconds. Adhering to this rule can reduce your symptoms. 

If your child is experiencing eye strain, try using a timer for 20 minutes to help them regulate their activity.

 

Keep your space well lit

Reading in dimly lit spaces can tire your eyes quickly. Position yourself so that light is coming from the side or behind your line of sight. And avoid glare, which glossy screens are known for.

 

Try artificial tears

Tears are an important part of how the human eye functions. When released, tears moisturize the eye and remove debris and other objects that irritate it. But sometimes tears aren’t enough, and your eyes can experience discomfort.

In those cases, artificial tears can help alleviate symptoms of dry eye. These eye drops are available over the counter and are easy to administer yourself. Be sure to review the instructions before use. If your job, school or activities expose you to prolonged screen time, you may want to keep a bottle of artificial tears handy.

 

Angle your screen properly 

If you’re using a computer, position the monitor so that your line of sight is slightly above the top of the text, and make sure you are seated an arm’s length from the screen. This positioning helps prevent your eyes from overworking. 

 

Check with an eye care professional

Sometimes, the problem is separate from digital eye strain. There are other diseases and conditions that cause many of the above symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms and haven’t had an exam recently, check with your vision provider. 

With an eye exam, your vision provider will be able to verify that your glasses and contact lens prescriptions are correct, and they can help identify any changes in your eyes that could be triggering the symptoms associated with digital eye strain. Regular eye exams are the best way to protect your vision, always. 

Keep your employees' eyes healthy. Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s business health care plans at insights.kpbiz.org/healthier-coverage.

 

Originally published on The Washington Business Journal. 

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