With the sun now setting hours earlier (*sheds dramatic tear*), a crisp winter chill keeping you cozied up inside and let’s be honest, a full week of holiday online shopping sales ahead, if you’re anything like us we have a feeling you’re logging a bit more screen time than usual lately. And while we can all agree it’s certainly not ideal, as long as you’re still moving your body, staying hydrated and committed to offline self-care, it’s not inherently all bad. However, it does come with one especially concerning risk: Digital Eye Strain.
Digital Eye Strain – also known as Computer Vision Syndrome – describes a slew of eye and vision-related issues that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. It’s not uncommon – many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The definition of “extended period” and the extent to which individuals experience visual symptoms will range from person to person, depending on their age, eye coordination and visual abilities and any untreated vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism.
Computer eye strain affects more than 70% of the approximately 143 million Americans who work on a computer on a daily basis, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). In fact, more than 90% of adults report using digital devices for more than two hours a day, with many upwards of seven hours a day.
Thanks to a combo of poor lighting, digital glare, improper viewing distances and poor desk or couch posture, digital eye strain issues can range from physical fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes, to neck and shoulder pain, decreased productivity and increased numbers of work errors. Distracting eye twitching and red, irritated eyes aren’t off the table, either!
Here’s the good news: many of the symptoms experienced by screen users (so, everyone) are only temporary and should decline after stepping away from computer work or your digital device of choice. That said, it’s best to put some preventative measures in place to address the cause of the problem and avoid recurring issues or worsening symptoms. Below, we’re sharing five ways to protect your eyes from digital burnout!
To help alleviate digital eye strain, try to rest your eyes when using the computer for long periods. Follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
A pair of computer-specific glasses can help relieve many of the symptoms of digital eye strain caused by harmful blue-violet light. By wearing blue light blocking glasses, you can limit the amount of blue light that enters your eyes and make extended screen time more pleasant.
Drinking and eating a diet rich in carotenoids, especially lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and lutein, can help prevent vision loss, reduce dry eye, and even improve night vision. We’ve recently turned to sipping Gac – the “superfruit” for your eyes. Gac fruit contains more carotenoids and Vitamin A than many common fruits and vegetables found in the Western diet – more than yellow corn, green leafy vegetables, and even tomatoes and carrots! Plus, Gac acts as fuel for your eyes — antioxidants in the Gac fruit are used to restore damaging blue light from digital devices.
Sounds too simple to be true, but it works. When working at a computer, people tend to blink less frequently — about one-third as often as they normally do. To minimize your chances of developing dry eyes when using a screen, make an effort to blink frequently to keep the surface of your eyes moist.
Adjusting the display settings of your computer or phone can help combat eye strain and fatigue. You’ll want to match the brightness of the display to be approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it appears dull and gray, it may be too dark.
As always, please consult your primary care doctor if you’re experiencing any digital eye strain symptoms. Regular eye examinations and proper viewing habits can go a long way to help to prevent or reduce the development of digital eye strain.