Do your eyes feel tired or irritated after working on a computer for a few hours? If so, you may be at risk for digital eye strain.
Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, typically occurs due to prolonged computer or digital device use. It can cause many eye and vision-related problems, including blurred vision, double vision, itchy eyes, and dry eyes. Using a computer or digital device for a long time can also cause headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain, among other non-ocular symptoms.
Most symptoms of digital eye strain are temporary, meaning they often lessen in severity or go away when you stop using your computer or digital device. Unfortunately, work obligations may prohibit you from limiting your computer use. The good news is there are many ways you can relieve and prevent digital eye strain when working on a computer.
Here’s what you can do to keep your eyes healthy and avoid digital eye strain, especially if your work involves using a computer for long hours.
1. Take breaks
Staring at a computer screen for a long time can cause eye strain, headaches, and neck pain. To avoid discomfort, follow the 20-20-20 rule. This rule says that you should look away from your computer screen and focus your eyes on any object that’s at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Do this every 20 minutes.
The 20-20-20 rule is thought to help ease and prevent symptoms of digital eye strain by relaxing your eye muscles. If you tend to get absorbed in your work, set a timed reminder on your computer or phone. This ensures that you remember to take a break every 20 minutes. You can also stand up and move about during your 20-second breaks to relieve fatigue. This is one of the most important things to do so you can keep yours eyes healthy while working on a computer.
Did you know that we blink less often when we’re staring at a digital screen? The truth of the matter is we forget to blink when staring at a digital screen because we’re so involved. In fact, experts find that the blink rate goes from 15 times per minute to only five to seven times per minute when you stare at a digital screen.
During long, non-blinking phases, tears coating the surface of the eye evaporate faster than usual, resulting in dry eyes.
To reduce your risk of developing dry eyes when using a computer, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times slowly as if falling asleep. You can also ease digital eye strain by rolling your eyes, as this helps release tension in your eye muscles. Do this three to five times in a row every hour to help ease eye strain.
3. Maintain good posture
Non-ocular symptoms of digital eye strain, such as neck and shoulder pain, are often due to poor alignment and posture when using a computer or digital device. Therefore, it’s important to maintain good posture when working on a computer. Here’s how you should sit in front of a computer:
- Sit with your back straight. Relax your shoulders, but don’t hunch.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground and your knees in line with your hips.
- Keep your hips far back in the chair. Don’t lean on either side.
- Keep your neck at an upright angle and your ears aligned with your shoulders.
4. Adjust your computer’s display settings
Adjusting the following settings on your computer can help prevent digital eye strain:
- Brightness – Make your computer screen more eye-friendly by adjusting its brightness to match that of your environment. To determine whether your screen is bright enough, look at a blank document or at the white background of a webpage. If it looks like it’s glowing, your screen is too bright. If it appears dull, your screen is too dim, adjust accordingly.
- Font size – Your font size should be about three times the smallest size you can read from a normal viewing position, i.e., roughly 20 to 30 inches away from your computer screen.
- Contrast – Black text on a white background is the best combination for optimal readability. Other dark-on-light combinations also work great for most people.
- Color temperature – The color temperature of your computer screen affects how warm or cool we perceive light to be. If the color temperature is too high, images on the screen will appear bluish. If it’s too low, images will appear yellowish. Keep your screen cool during the day and warm at night to prevent digital eye strain.
5. Adjust your room lighting
Poor room lighting is also a contributing factor to digital eye strain. If the room is too bright or too dark, you risk straining your eyes to see what’s on your screen clearly. To adjust the lighting in your room, try closing or opening your curtains, drapes, or blinds. If possible, try using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes as well.
6. Use proper eyewear
If you find yourself frequently straining to see or read what’s on your computer screen, consult an eye care professional (ECP) to determine if you need to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses that are specifically designed for computer use. Using eyewear that fits your needs could help you do your work efficiently without worrying about digital eye strain.
7. Eat right
Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear. In fact, diets rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to provide long-term benefits for chronic eye conditions, including dry eye disease and age-related macular degeneration. Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. They’re also present in some plant-based foods, including walnuts, Brussels sprouts, and chia seeds. Eating foods like these are one of the best things you can do to keep your eyes healthy.
Other eye-friendly nutrients include vitamin A, which can be found in carrots and sweet potatoes, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which are present in many green leafy vegetables.
Drinking lots of water every day is also important for keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear. As your body loses water throughout the day, so do your tear ducts. This can make you prone to dry eyes, red eyes, and other eye and vision-related symptoms of digital eye strain. To stay adequately hydrated, aim for six to eight glasses of water every day.
7. Get your eyes checked
Underlying eye conditions can make you susceptible to digital eye strain and its symptoms, so it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly by an ECP.
Even if you are healthy and have no vision-related problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends getting an eye exam at age 40, when vision changes are likely to start. Based on the results of your exam, your ECP can recommend how often you should have future eye exams.
If you’re 60 or older, you should get your eyes checked every year or two. You may also have to get your eyes checked more often if you wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Cutting down the amount of time you spend on your computer is the best way to avoid digital eye strain, but that isn’t always a practical option. If work obligations keep you from limiting your screen time, simply follow the tips above to take care of your eyes and avoid eye strain when working on a computer.
Divina Sobrepeña is a content writer at Lens.com, where you can get an eye exam done online. She specializes in consumer product-based writing, but she also likes to cover health and wellness topics. When she isn’t busy writing, she likes to read manga, watch TV shows, and play with her dogs