The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has millions of Americans stuck at home. Adults and children are spending more time than ever on electronic devices — working, schooling or just trying to pass the time until we can be with friends and family again.
This rapid increase in screen time can also greatly increase the number of people suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome? This temporary eye condition is the result of focusing on a computer screen for long periods of time without breaks. Also called Digital Eye Strain, the condition can also occur from prolonged use of tablets and smart phones.
Common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include:
- Irritated eyes/eyestrain
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck/shoulder pain
There are many factors that contribute to the amount of strain your body experiences when you spend a lot of time in front of a digital device, from the lighting in the room to the distance you sit from your screen.
Give yourself the best chance at avoiding Digital Eye Strain by observing these guidelines from the Houston ophthalmologists at Berkeley Eye Center.
Dim the Lights
Overhead fluorescent lighting is often excessively bright and harsh on the eyes. When using a computer or other digital device for long periods of time, the ambient light, or light that’s around you, should be approximately half as bright as what’s normally found in an office environment.
To diminish the harsh effects of too much light — whether from natural light coming in through the windows or interior lighting — there are several steps you can take.
For natural lights, close drapes or blinds when available, and position your computer monitor so the windows are to the side of it, not in front of or behind the screen. Turn off overhead fluorescent lights when possible, or reduce the number of tubes installed above your work area. Use floor lamps or halogen lighting that provide indirect incandescent light.
Glare is the visual sensation you experience in excessive, uncontrolled brightness. Glare from light colored walls and reflective surfaces is another common cause of digital eye strain. Reducing glare starts with dimming the lights, as mentioned above, but also consider the following:
- Paint walls a darker color with a matte finish.
- Wear glasses with anti-reflective coating.
- Use an anti-glare screen on computer monitor.
Also, don’t forget to regularly clean your computer screen. Dirt and dust buildup can cause some areas of the screen to display more brightly than others, causing your eyes to strain more when looking at it.
Adjust Your Display
There are several display setting on your computer screen that, when adjusted correctly, can reduce the strain on your eyes.
- Text size
- Color temperature
Display settings can be found under “Control Panel” on a Microsoft Windows operating system and under “System Preferences” on an Apple computer. For some monitors, color temperature (the adjustment of how your screen displays colors) is on the monitor itself.
In addition to adjusting your settings, it’s also important to upgrade your display if possible. Old cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors are harsher on the eyes than newer LCD screens. CRT monitors have a notorious “flicker” in the display that can greatly contribute to eye strain.
The higher the resolution of your new monitor, the better of your eyes will be. Also, larger displays will result in less strain. For desktop computers, particularly if you work on it day in and day out, at least 19 inches should be the minimum for your monitor size.
Eye fatigue is one of the major causes of digital eye strain. Reduce this risk by giving your eyes a workout with these exercises:
- Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will relax the focusing muscle inside the eye and reduce fatigue.
- Look at a far away object for 10-15 seconds, then look at an up-close object for 10-15 seconds. This will reduce the risk of locking up your eyes’ focusing ability when you’ve been on a computer for a long period of time.
In addition to these eye exercises, it’s also important to take frequent breaks. Several 5-minute breaks throughout your workday can do wonders for reducing eye strain, as well as neck, back and shoulder pain associated with sitting at a computer all day. When you take these breaks, stand up, move around and stretch to reduce muscle tension and fatigue.
Remind Yourself to Blink
Blinking is an important part of your eye health. It moistens the eyes to guard against dryness and irritation. For the most part, this activity that happens without us having to think too much about it. However, prolonged computer work typically decreases blinking without the worker realizing it.
People blink approximately one-third fewer times when working on a computer, and many of these blinks are only partial lid closures. Combine this with the dry air of many office environments and you have a recipe for dry eye issues.
Ask your eye doctor about using artificial tears to help combat dry eyes, and start performing this exercise at work: Every 20 minutes, slowly blink your eyes 10 times to help properly rewet them.
Get Regular Eye Exams
Everyone should have a comprehensive eye exam once a year. These exams are an important evaluation in which your doctor checks for vision changes and looks for any changes in your eye health.
For many eye diseases and conditions, catching them early is key to treatment. During your exam, talk to your Houston eye doctor about how often you use computers and other digital devices.
If you work on a computer, measure the distance from your monitor to your eyes. When the pandemic restrictions have eased and you’re able to go about scheduling regular eye appointments again, you can let your doctor know that screen distance measurement so he or she can test your vision at that specific distance. Also talk to your doctor about computer glasses, which can be customized to your prescription.
Are you suffering from symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome? Contact Berkeley Eye Center today.