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Computer Eyestrain

In our digital age, technological devices like computers, tablets and smart phones play integral roles in our daily lives. The increased usage of these digital products has already raised a number of worrisome health issues, and the problem of computer eye strain is certainly among them.

Take a break from the monitor, rest your eyesEye strain has actually become one of the most common office-related health complaints. For the most part, the sudden emergence of this issue has been attributed to the increased amount of people who are now using computers at work every day. Though, we should say misusing computers at work instead – because digital eyestrain isn’t so much the result of people using their computers, but rather of how they’re using their computers.

More and more of us are interacting with our screens in ways that are detrimental to our health. The incredibly rapid growth of computer eye strain as a widespread health concern clearly shows the extent of the problem.

This article aims to show the extent of the solution, offering tips and guidance on how to use your computer every day without compromising your eye health.   

Tips on How to Address The Symptoms of Computer Eyestrain

Blinking as Therapy

Did you know that blinking is therapy for your eyes? When you blink, you coat your eyes in tears that are naturally therapeutic, and that help keep your eyes moist and comfortable.

Blinking is especially important during periods of extended computer use, as studies have shown that people tend to blink less frequently than normal when using the computer. As a result of this decreased rate of blinking, people have a higher risk of experiencing negative effects such as eye fatigue, blurry vision, and dry eyes.

If need be, remind yourself to blink more often when using the computer. You can also use eye drops to help lubricate your eyes and keep them moist; using artificial tears will also ensure your eyes stay fresh, so having a bottle at your desk is likely a good idea.

The Importance of Lighting

Sunlight: We take pride in the amount of natural light streaming into our homes and offices through the windows – but our eyes aren’t pleased by this, as they can be strained by bright outdoor lighting just as easily as by harsh ambient lighting inside. If your desk at work gets showered in sunlight, then be sure to adjust the blinds on the windows accordingly, and to purchase a glare screen if you feel it’s needed.

When you’re heading outside on a sunny day, take precautions to protect your eyes from receiving too much UV exposure – you can wear sunglasses or contacts that have been specially treated for UV absorption. Ultimately, an excess of UV ray exposure can make eyes more susceptible to developing serious conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Indoor Lighting: If the interior lighting at your office or home seems to be too bright, you shouldn’t wait to make changes. Maybe the overhead fluorescent lights are annoying you at the office – either by how they shine down on you, or how they reflect off your computer screen and into eyes. If this is the case, try removing some of the fluorescent tubes from the fixture; most office managers are fine with these type of adjustments, because if one employee is bothered by the lighting, then chances are they’re not the only one in the office.

Rest Your Eyes

When you work in front of a computer all day, blinking can only do so much to keep your eyes as fresh as they should be – that’s why taking regular breaks is so vital. Standing up and walking away from your desk every so often helps lower your risk for CVS. And while you’re up and about, doing a bit of light stretching can guard against pain in your shoulders, neck, or back. 

Leaving your desk area for periodic mini-breaks won’t give your eyes the full amount of rest they should receive during the day; consequently, you need to remember to rest your eyes while sitting at the desk. One of the most common ways of doing this is by following the 20/20/20 Rule:

  • Make sure that every 20 minutes, you look away from your computer screen.
  • Don’t return your eyes to the screen for 20 seconds.
  • During this resting time, look at an object that’s at least 20 feet away.

By following each of these steps, you’ll give your eyes a much-needed chance to refocus three times each hour. Keep in mind, though, that after you continually use the computer for two hours, you should take 15 minutes to rest your eyes.

Minimize Glare

When there’s glare reflecting off of your computer screen, your eyes become more sensitive to the light, and have greater difficulty distinguishing letters and words from the contrasting background. There are a number of ways you can try and address this problem:

  • Purchase a glare filter and place it on your screen; or take things a step further by installing an anti-glare screen onto your existing monitor.
  • Ensure that the blinds on the windows are closed, and that they’re successfully keeping out the sunlight. If for some reason the light from outside can’t be reduced to an acceptable level, you may want to look into purchasing a computer hood.
  • Did you know that there’s a special coating that can be applied to the lenses of your glasses that will help reduce glare? This anti-reflective (AR) coating lowers the amount of light that’s reflected off the surfaces of the lenses (both the front and back surfaces of the lenses).
  • Protecting your eyes from glare involves more than attending to windows and computer screens – walls and finished surfaces also have the potential to reflect light and strain your eyes. If bright white walls are causing you and your eyes too much of a hassle, then you may need to paint them a darker color, and then leave a matte finish. 

Positioning the computer screen

To guard against any light problems, it’s best to sit directly in front of the computer, and to ensure that the screen is located just below your eye level. Ideally, there should be an arm’s length distance between you and your computer screen. You can make things easier for your eyes by enlarging the size of the text, wiping your screen down to keep it clean, and dimming the lights in the room so they’re not competing with the light from your monitor. 

Get Your Eyes Checked

In addition to scheduling regular eye exams on an annual (or bi-annual) basis, be sure to check in with your eye doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome.

An eye care professional can help you determine the best course of action for dealing with the strain of prolonged computer usage.