Do you spend a lot of time on your computer, smartphone, or other digital devices? If so, you may be at risk for something called digital eye strain.
As the name suggests, digital eye strain is caused by lots of computer or digital device use. Also known as computer vision syndrome, digital eye strain can cause many symptoms, including dry eyes, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.
Given the cause of digital eye strain, it would appear that the best way to avoid it is to spend less time on digital devices. However, this isn’t always realistic as work obligations and other commitments may often prohibit you from doing so.
Thankfully, there are many ways to relieve digital eye strain and reduce your risk for it in the first place, even when using digital devices. Here’s how.
1. Take breaks
To prevent digital eye strain, try to rest your eyes when using your computer, smartphone, or other digital devices for long periods. The best way to do this is by following the 20-20-20 rule. The rule says that you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. If you tend to lose track of time when using a digital device, set an alarm for every 20 minutes as a reminder to take a break.
Don’t stress over measuring 20 feet precisely. Just try to focus on something far away from you. Consider looking out a window at an object farther away, such as a tree, a lamppost, or a house across the street. Alternatively, try closing your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
2. Blink more
Blinking helps keep our eyes moist to prevent dryness and discomfort. However, we tend to blink less often when looking at a digital screen. During these long, non-blinking phases, tears coating the surface of our eyes evaporate rapidly, causing dryness and irritation.
To reduce the chances of developing dry eye when you’re on your computer or smartphone, try this exercise: Every 20 minutes, blink 10 times very slowly as if falling asleep. This will help rewet your eyes.
3. Exercise your eyes
Another way you can relieve and prevent digital eye strain is by exercising your eyes. The easiest way to do this is by rolling them, as this helps release tension in the muscles that aim your eyes. Do this three to five times in a row every hour to help with eye strain.
You can also try performing the focus change exercise. Start by holding one finger a few inches away from one eye. Focus your gaze on your finger, then slowly move it away from your face. Focus on an object farther away, then focus on your finger again. Bring your finger back closer to your eye, then focus on an object farther away. Repeat this exercise three to five times every hour to help relieve digital eye strain.
4. Adjust your device’s display settings
Adjusting the following settings on your device can help prevent digital eye strain:
- Brightness – Your screen shouldn’t be too bright that it looks like a light source in the room. It also shouldn’t be too dull or gray that you have to squint to see clearly.
- Text size – The size of the letters on your screen should be big enough that you can read them easily from about 20 inches away.
- Contrast – Our eyes prefer black text on a white background when it comes to color combinations. To prevent eye strain, avoid low contrast text and background color schemes.
5. Use the right eyewear for you
If work obligations and other commitments prevent you from limiting your digital device use, ask an eye care professional (ECP) about eyewear that’s designed for computer work. Computer glasses, for instance, reduce how much focusing your eyes must do when looking at digital screens.
There are also contact lenses that are designed specifically for the digital age. Such contacts maintain most of their moisture to help keep your eyes feeling comfortable when using digital devices. Using eyewear that fits your needs could help you do your work efficiently without having to worry about the effects of digital eye strain.
6. Get a comprehensive eye exam
If you wear eyeglasses or corrective contact lenses, see your ECP at least once a year or as advised for a comprehensive eye exam. During your exam, be sure to tell your ECP how often you use digital devices at work and at home.
That being said, an annual comprehensive eye exam is arguably the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat vision problems caused by digital eye strain, even if you don’t wear eyeglasses or corrective contact lenses.
Spending less time on digital devices is the best way to care for your eyes and avoid eye strain, but that isn’t always a viable option. If you can’t avoid using digital devices at work or at home, follow the tips above to take better care of your eyes and avoid eye strain.