Digital Eye Strain

Family Health Diary

Eye strain can be caused by looking at computer screens for too long without a break, driving long distances or reading a book for a long time.

As a society we are using digital devices more and more each year. This year many of us have been working from home and even using computers to socialise because we cannot get together physically. This has resulted in more people suffering with eye strain. The eye strain caused by devices like computers, smart phones and tablets is known as digital eye strain.

American Optometric Association say looking at screens for more than two hours in a row every day gives you the greatest risk of digital eye strain. When working from home and even working in the office this seems unavoidable for many people.

Eye strain can also be a problem for school children and university students with many of their classes now on-line. Classes that people used to go to in the evening or weekend are now being offered on-line, even exercise classes and art lessons. There are many advantages to this digital age but eye strain is the down side.

Common symptoms of eye strain include dry irritated eyes and blurry vision or sore tired eyes that are burning or watery.  Some people experience headaches or increased sensitivity to light when they have eye strain. Another common symptom is finding you just can’t keep your eyes open.

How to avoid eye strain when you have to work or learn online?

  • Less light. The ‘Vision Council’ of American say: When you use a computer, the light in your room should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices.
  • Position your computer so that windows are to the side of the computer and not in front or behind your computer.
  • Pull the blinds or turn off half the lights to reduce the amount of light in the room.
  • Do not work directly under fluorescent lights. Turn them off and use side lights of low light intensity.
  • Minimise glare off the computer screen. Some people use an ‘anti-glare’ screen or anti-glare cover for their computer screen. Make sure you have the flat LED screen, these should come with an anti-reflective surface.
  • If you wear glasses you can get an anti-reflective coating on the lenses.
  • Blink more often to lubricate your eyes.
  • Use lubricating eye drops available from your pharmacy. Use them often to keep your eye moist and soothed. This is especially important if you work in an office with air-conditioning that tends to dry your eyes out.
  • Use a large screen when possible and set it to the highest resolution setting so words and images are clear and easy to see.
  • Adjust the brightness of your computer screen so it is about the same as your surroundings. The screen should not look like a light source (too bright) and should not look dull and grey (not bright enough).
  • Maintain good posture and ensure you have the screen at the right distance so that you can easily focus on it.
  • Look away frequently. Every 20 minutes look at a distance of six metres for at least 20 seconds.
  • Take a walk outside in natural light when you have your lunch break.
  • If you use a computer all day, try and do something in the evening that doesn’t involve a computer screen.

When to be concerned
If you have eye strain that is severe or doesn’t stop when you stop using the computer, you should be checked by your optometrist. You may need corrective glasses or anti-glare lenses in your current glasses. If your eyes are painful or you vision is affected, it might be a sign of something else. Get regular eye examinations to ensure you do not have other eye conditions that have not been diagnosed. While headaches can be a sign of eye strain, if you have not had headaches before and get a severe headache you should be seen immediately by a doctor.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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