Ashley Clay, MSPAS
PA-C Medcor Provider
Now more than ever we need to focus our sight on eye health, specifically eyestrain related to screen time. On average adults spend 11 hours each day looking at a screen of some kind. Sixty-seven percent of adults report using at least two digital devices at the same time.
Although binge watching your favorite television show while shopping on your smartphone after working all day in front of a computer monitor is unlikely to cause permanent eye damage, too much screen time can cause eyestrain. Eyestrain occurs when your eyes focus on something for long periods, and your eyes become tired from too much use.
How do I know if I suffer from eyestrain?
Symptoms of eyestrain include:
- Itching, burning, watery, or dry eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Difficulty focusing your eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
What are ways to combat digital eyestrain?
- Use soft light when watching TV.
- Increase font size on tablets, phones.
- Take frequent screen breaks.
- Avoid using devices a few hours before bed.
- Wear glasses or contacts (if prescribed).
- Use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes.
- Be mindful of screen time and reduce if necessary.
- Consider using a humidifier in your environment to help with dry eyes.
In addition to applicable at-home suggestions, consider the following for computer-based work:
- Align your keyboard in front of your monitor to avoid making your eyes work too hard.
- Position the monitor an arm’s length away.
- Position your monitor so that windows do not cause glare. Close blinds; be mindful of overhead lighting and/or other light sources.
- Upgrade your display to a flat panel LED with an anti-reflective surface.
- Adjust the settings of your computer monitor display. The brightness level should be the same brightness as that of your surrounding workstation.
- Adjust your contrast to warmer hues and greater contrast. Usually larger black print on a white background is the best, and warmer hues (yellow, pink) reduce the blue light normally emitted by screens, which can be especially hard on the eyes.
- Adjust the top of your monitor so that it is at or below eye level. You may need to change the position if you wear bifocals (to avoid neck/shoulder strain). An adjustable chair is also helpful.
- Blink often to refresh the moisture of your eyes.
- Use a document holder to reduce head movement and the workload on your eyes.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at another object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The 20-20-20 rule is recognized by the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology as a way to reduce eyestrain.
- Take advantage of employer benefits to get a vision screening annually. Talk to your eyecare health professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist) about glasses coatings and lenses that may help reduce digital eyestrain.
- Participate in desk exercises and standing breaks. Get up and move your body away from the screen!
All About Vision, “Computer eye strain: 10 steps for relief,” https://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/irritated.htm
HowStuffWorks, “Is too much TV really bad for your eyes?” https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/eye/tv-bad-for-eyes2.htm
Mayo Clinic, “Eyestrain,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eyestrain/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20372403
Medical News Today, “Does the 20-20-20 rule prevent eye strain?,” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321536
Scripps, “How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?” https://www.scripps.org/news_items/6626-how-much-screen-time-is-too-much
The Vision Council, “Digital Eye Strain,” https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/content/digital-eye-strain