More than 83 percent of Americans report using digital devices like computers for more than two hours per day, and 53.1 percent report using two digital devices simultaneously. Over half of these, 60.5 percent, reporting experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, according to The Vision Council organization.
Additionally, many of us use our smartphones repeatedly to read messages, search sites, record information, or play games. In short, we are becoming increasingly immersed in the digital world as more of our daily tasks move online, so it’s no wonder that eye strain is common.
While staring at a computer screen, smartphone, or other digital devices for long periods won’t cause permanent eye damage, it can cause symptoms of eye strain such as:
- Dry or gritty feeling eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Red or watery eyes
So, what causes digital eye strain? According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, humans normally blink about 15 times a minute, but studies have shown that we blink only 5 to 7 times while using computers and other digital screen devices, whether for work or play. Less blinking results in less lubrication of the corneas, which contributes to the symptoms of eye strain.
What Can I Do to Avoid Digital Eye Strain?
- Follow the “20-20-20” rule. Every 20 minutes, shift your gaze to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
- Sit arm’s length, or about 25 inches, from the computer screen, and position the screen so that you’re looking slightly downward.
- Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry. If you work on a computer all day, use the artificial tear eye drops regularly throughout the day rather than just at the end of the day or work session.
- If a screen is much brighter than the surrounding light, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your room lighting and try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.
- Lower overhead lighting to reduce screen glare, and consider using a matte screen filter if needed.
- Increase text size on devices.
For those who wear contact lenses: contact lenses can make eye dryness and irritation worse, especially when using computers and other digital devices. Give your eyes a break by wearing your glasses for a period of time, regularly clean your contact lenses, and don’t sleep in your lenses (even if they’re extended wear).
Are there special eyeglasses that can prevent digital eye strain?
Some who suffer from digital eye strain symptoms wonder if eyeglasses that claim to filter out blue light from screens are effective. These glasses are becoming increasingly popular and claim to reduce exposure to what’s claimed to be problematic blue light. However, there is no evidence that the kind or amount of light coming from screens is damaging to the eyes or causes any irreversible damage. The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend any special eyeglasses for computer use.
If the above steps to avoid digital eye strain aren’t effective, or if your eyes are consistently red, blurry, watery, or become sensitive to light, it’s time to see an ophthalmologist.
With offices in Knoxville, TN and Morristown, TN, Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to complex eye surgeries. To learn about our specialities and our doctors, visit our website. Call us at 865-579-3920 for more information, or visit us online to schedule an appointment.