Everyone seems to be staring at a screen these days, whether their computer, their smartphone or another digital device. The stress it puts on your eyes can cause a condition called "digital eye strain" (DES) or "computer vision syndrome" (CVS). Symptoms include eye fatigue, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, red eyes, and eye twitching.
How To Protect Your Eyes While You Work
Below are a few things you can do to lower your risk or mitigate any discomfort associated with DES.
1. See your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam
This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent or treat symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. During your eye doctor’s appointment, make sure to speak with Doctor Ratinoff about your working habits, including the frequency and length of time you use a computer and other devices at work and at home.
If you get a chance before you come, measure the distance between your eyes and your computer screen and bring that information to the optometrist, so that you can get your eyes tested for that specific working distance.
Computer vision syndrome may be exacerbated by an underlying dry eye disease, which can be diagnosed and treated at our eye clinic in Palo Alto.
Sometimes people who have good visual acuity assume they don’t need any glasses. However, even very mild prescriptions can improve eyestrain and curb fatigue when working at a computer.
2. Good lighting is key
Excessively bright light, whether due to outdoor sunshine coming in through the window or harsh interior lighting, is a common cause of eyestrain. When using your computer, your ambient lighting should be about 50% dimmer than what is typically found in most offices.
You can reduce exterior light by closing drapes, blinds or shades and diminish interior illumination by using fewer or lower intensity bulbs. Computer users often find that turning off overhead fluorescent lights and replacing them with floor lamps is easier on their eyes.
3. Minimize glare
Eyestrain can be aggravated by glare from light reflecting off surfaces including your computer screen. Position your computer so that windows are neither directly in front of nor behind the monitor, but rather to the side of it. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your display. If you wear glasses, get anti-reflective (AR) coating on your lenses to reduce glare by limiting the amount of light that reflects off the front and back surfaces of your lenses (more on that below.)
4. Upgrade your display
If you have a CRT (cathode) screen on your monitor, consider replacing it with a flat-panel LED (light-emitting diode) screen that includes an anti-reflective surface. Old-school CRT screens can be a major cause of computer eye strain due to the flickering images.
For your new flat panel desktop display, choose one with a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches, and the higher the resolution, the better.
5. Adjust display settings for added comfort
Adjusting your computer display settings can help decrease eye strain and fatigue too.
- Brightness: Adjust your device’s brightness to match the luminance around you. If the white background of this page looks like a light source, then it should be dimmed. However, if it appears dull and gray, it may not provide enough contrast, which can make it hard to read.
- Text size: Adjust the text size for maximum eye comfort, particularly when reading, editing or writing long documents. Increase the size if you find yourself squinting, but bigger isn’t always better, since overly large text display may force your eyes to track back and forth too quickly for comfort.
- Color temperature: This refers to the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light, whereas orange and red are longer wavelength hues. Exposure to blue light helps keep you alert but tends to cause eye fatigue after a while; yellow to red tints are more relaxing and may be better for long-term viewing, especially at night. Many devices allow the user to adjust the color temperature.
6. Get computer glasses
Nearly 70% of North Americans experience digital eye strain related to prolonged use of electronic devices. To combat these effects, University Optometry recommends digital protection coatings, which act as a shield to cut the glare and filter the blue light emanating from digital screens and artificial light.
For the greatest eye comfort, ask Doctor Ratinoff for customized computer glasses, which feature mildly tinted lenses that filter out blue light. These can be made with or without prescription vision correction, for the benefit of those with 20/20 vision or contact lens wearers, though many people with contacts actually prefer to have alternative eyewear to use when their lenses become dry and uncomfortable from extended screen time.
University Optometry can help you choose from a vast array of effective optical lenses and lens coatings to relieve the effects of digital eye strain.
7. Don't forget to blink
When staring at a digital device people tend to blink up to 66% less often, and often the blinks performed during computer work are only partial which aren’t as effective at keeping the eyes moist and fresh feeling. Making a conscious effort to blink more while working or watching can prevent dryness and irritation.
8. Exercise your eyes
Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue. Look away from your computer every 20 minutes and gaze at an object located 20 feet away, for a minimum of 20 seconds. This "20-20-20 rule" is a classic exercise to relax the eyes’ focusing muscles and reduce computer vision syndrome.
The steps above don’t require a tremendous amount of time or money to be effective. Contact University Optometry in Palo Alto to make an appointment with Doctor Ratinoff and learn how the right eye drops, eye exercises, computer glasses, or AR coatings can improve eye comfort, reduce computer vision syndrome and potentially lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction.