Eye strain is an ongoing problem for a lot of people that often goes unaddressed. We’ve all kind of learned to live with it, and so have our eyes. Some people even think it’s normal. But it’s not. You don’t have to live with it. If you’ve never heard the term “digital eye strain” before, then welcome. Let me introduce you to this unique affliction that we’ve all come to accept as normal.
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain (DES) is the physical discomfort felt after two or more hours of using digital devices like computers, tablets, and smartphones. Its symptoms include dry eyes, irritated eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. DES can also cause neck, shoulder, and upper back pain.
What causes digital eye strain?
With the rise in popularity of digital devices, more people are spending a large portion of their day staring at screens, whether it’s a TV, cellphone, or computer. The light from these screens can cause damage to your eyes, specifically affecting the cornea and retina.
Who Can Be Affected by Digital Eye Strain?
DES affects anyone who spends an extended period of time looking at a digital device. Though there are many different types of devices, such as smartphones, computers, laptops, and tablets, they all share one thing in common: they all emit blue light. Blue light is the high-energy visible (HEV) light that emits from these screens, which can lead to eye fatigue and eye strain. As we spend more time on our devices throughout the day, it’s important to take breaks.
What are the long-term effects of this condition?
The long-term effects of digital eye strain are much more serious and include:
Cataracts – cataracts are a condition that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy, which results in blurry vision. Exposure to blue light from screens has been found to accelerate the development of this condition.
Age-related macular degeneration – AMD is a common cause of blindness in older people. According to research, blue light exposure can speed up the progression of AMD.
Poor sleep – blue light exposure at night-time can suppress melatonin production and lead to poor sleep quality. Lack of quality sleep can have a wide range of negative effects on our health and wellbeing.
How to prevent digital eye strain
One of the best ways to prevent digital eye strain is to take a break every 20 minutes or so to look at something in the distance (20 feet away) for 20 seconds. This will help you blink and rest your eyes.
Blink often when using digital screens. Blinking helps rewet your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation.
Adjust the lighting in your work area. Glare on a screen causes you to squint and strain your eyes. If possible, decrease the brightness of the screen, increase the size of text or change the background color from bright white to a darker color.
Over-the-counter artificial tears are another option to help relieve dry eyes, especially if computer use is making them particularly uncomfortable.
Get regular eye exams. Even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts, it’s important to have periodic eye exams so that any vision problems or other issues can be detected early on.
If you’ve experienced the pain of digital eye strain, this article has hopefully cleared some things up for you. Chances are there are a few adjustments you can make to either improve your screen’s ergonomics or your own ocular health that will put an end to those awful headaches and burning eyes. And if not, it’s definitely something worth looking into with your eye doctor.