Eye Strain and How to Prevent It

May 10, 2021

Eye strain

After a long period of intense concentration on an activity such as watching a computer screen, reading a book, or driving a car, your eyes can become tired or irritated. This condition is eye strain.

Eye strain is a common ailment. It happens when your eyes become exhausted due to prolonged usage, such as looking at computer screens and other digital devices or traveling long distances. It's becoming more popular in this digital era. Computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, is caused by digital devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. A person blinks about 18 times per minute. The eyes refresh as a result of this. However, studies show that people blink about half as much when looking at a tablet or other gadget.

COMMON CAUSES

The daily use of digital displays for several hours is one of the leading causes of eye strain. In the United States, 87 percent of people spend more than two hours a day on one or more digital devices. Adults are not the only ones that use digital tools. 76.5 percent of American children spend more than two hours a day staring at screens. As a result of their exposure to digital devices, these children can develop eye strain or other conditions.

Other common causes are:

● inadequate lighting

● underlying eye problems such as vision problems or dry eyes

● too much focus on a single task for some time

● poor posture when viewing digital devices

● failing to blink often as normal

● stress and fatigue

● prolonged exposure to blue light

● devices that have glare or reflection

● poor computer workstation setup

● screens that do not have proper lighting

● poor contrast between text and background on computer screens

● exposure to glare or bright light

● exposure to dry air such as from a fan or air-conditioning

COMMON SYMPTOMS

● headaches

● neck, shoulder, or back pain

● watery or dry eyes

● blurred vision

● sensitivity to light

● irritated, itchy, or sore eyes

● eye redness

● eye twitching

● difficulty in keeping eyes open

● trouble concentrating

These symptoms may hurt your productivity. You can aggravate the issue by staying awake for long periods while working. Sleep replenishes the eyes with vital nutrients. Sleep deprivation can cause repeated eye irritation.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

There are some simple things you can do to prevent eye strain. Here are some of the changes you can even start doing today:

L I G H T I N G

Excessively bright light, either from outside sunlight coming in through a window or from intense interior lighting, is often the cause of eye strain. Close drapes, curtains, or blinds to block out sunlight. When working on a monitor, the ambient lighting should be about half as bright as found in most workplaces

Numerous computer users find that avoiding working under overhead fluorescent lights makes their eyes feel healthier. If necessary, switch off the overhead fluorescent lights in your office and replace them with floor lamps that emit indirect "warm white" LED lighting. If you are disturbed by overhead lighting, consider reducing the number of fluorescent tubes mounted above your computer workspace.

If possible, position your computer screen so that windows are to the side, not in front or behind it. If you keep the room softly illuminated when watching television, it might be easier on your eyes. When reading printed materials or performing close work, try to place the light source behind you and guide it onto your task. If you're reading at a desk, position yourself in the shaded area. The shade will prevent direct sunlight from penetrating your eyes. You may also consider using an adjustable desk lamp.

G L A R E

Computer eye strain is also caused by glare from light bouncing off walls as well as reflections on your computer screen. Install an anti-glare screen on your display and, if possible, paint bright white walls a neutral or darker color with a matte finish. 

 B L I N K

According to research, people blink less often when looking at a screen, and several blinks done during computer work are just partial lid closures. Blinking causes tears to form, which moisten and refresh your eyes. 

Tears coating the eye evaporate more quickly during long non-blinking periods, which may result in dry eyes. Furthermore, the air in workplace environments is dry, increasing the evaporation of tears, putting you at risk for dry eyes.

● 20-20-20 rule: At least every 20 minutes, take a break from your screen and stare at a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away helps to relieve fatigue by relaxing the focusing muscle within the eye.

● Step away: If you must work at a computer screen or travel a long distance for several hours, make sure to combine the task with those that require different uses of your eyes. Take a stroll outside in natural light during your lunch break, for example, if you've spent the whole morning working on a screen.

● Artificial tears: Consult your eye doctor about using artificial tears during the day. Don't mix up lubricating eye drops with those designed to "get the red out." The above will also improve the appearance of your eyes because they contain ingredients that constrict blood vessels on the surface of your eyes, causing them to "whiten." However, they are not to alleviate dryness and discomfort. 

S C R E E N / D I S P L A Y

Changing your computer's monitor settings will help minimize eye strain and fatigue. 

● Brightness: Adjust the monitor's brightness such that it is about the same as the workstation surroundings. Take a look at this page's white backdrop. It shouldn't be gray or dark, but it also shouldn't be too bright.

● Contrast and text size: For comfort, adjust the contrast and font/text size, particularly when reading or writing long documents. Generally, black print on a white backdrop is the most comfortable mix.

● Color temperature: This is a scientific term for the visible light spectrum produced by a color display. Blue light is a form of short-wavelength visible light that causes more eye strain than longer wavelength hues like orange and red. Lowering the color temperature of your monitor reduces the amount of blue light produced by a color display, resulting in better long-term viewing comfort.

W O R K S T A T I O N

If you need to switch between a typed page and your computer screen:

● Place the physical pages on a copy stand/holder next to your screen. Some holders are to be positioned between the keyboard and the display, while others are placed on the side. Find the one that fits best for you. The aim is to reduce the amount of time your eyes have to readjust and the number of times you turn your neck and head.

● Properly illuminate the copyholder/stand. You may use an adjustable desk lamp. Make sure it doesn't shine directly into your eyes or on your computer screen.

Computer vision syndrome is often exacerbated by poor posture. Adjust the height of your workstation and chair so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor. 

● Standing desks and standing desk converters are handy and beneficial for this purpose, not only for posture but also to keep you moving. You may adjust your standing desk or standing desk converter height whether you are standing, sitting on a regular chair, or an ergonomic stool such as a wobble chair. This range of motions reduces lower back pain and other back, neck, or even leg discomforts.

● If these are not possible, monitor arms may do the trick. FlexiSpot monitor arms are fully flexible, with full tilt, rotate, and swivel capability for the ultimate in viewing versatility. They also help reduce eye, back, and neck strain by holding your monitor at the ideal height and distance for you. Monitor arms will get your monitor up and off your desk, freeing up valuable real estate to spread out and get work done.

● Ergonomic office chairs are primarily adjustable, come with back support to reduce neck and back problems, comfortable, and come in various sizes and finishes to suit your needs.

B R E A K S

Take regular screen breaks during the workday to reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome and neck, back, and shoulder pain. Most professionals recommend taking a 10-minute break each hour. Get up, walkabout, and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck, and shoulders during these breaks to relieve stress and muscle exhaustion.

Your standing desk may play a role in this break as well by simply reminding you that it's time to take a breather by getting up from your chair.

E Y E E X A M

In case that you're experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above regarding an eye strain, here is some information that you may prepare before visiting your doctor:

● Tell your eye doctor how much you use a computer and digital devices at work and home during your test. When you sit at your monitor, calculate how far your eyes are from the screen, and carry the measurement with you to your exam so your eye doctor can examine your eyes at that same working distance. 

● Symptoms that you've been experiencing and when it started

● Medical information such as existing medical conditions or medications and supplements you're currently taking

● Activities that you noticed that might have triggered your eye strain symptoms

● Other questions you might have to maximize your visit

CONCLUSION

Maintaining your eye health is critical to avoiding more serious vision issues in the future. You should see your doctor at least once a year to get your eyes tested, particularly if you suffer from frequent or long-term eyestrain. If you notice that you have signs of eyestrain, try some ways to alleviate or avoid it. Consult your doctor if none of these methods relieve your eyestrain.

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