How Digital Eye Strain Can Lead To Irritated Eyes

A woman experiencing eye strain

Irritated, Dry Eyes May Be Signs That You Have Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain, also called computer vision syndrome, is a condition that often affects people who work or play on laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and other digital devices. Whether you use a laptop or tablet at work, or your screen time is limited to texting and playing games on your phone or TV in the evenings, you may be at risk for developing the condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Pain In Your Eyes and Eye Muscles
  • Blurred Vision
  • Irritated, Dry Eyes
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle Stiffness in Your Neck and Shoulders

The condition occurs in both children and adults who view digital screens. Approximately 59 percent of people who use digital devices report digital eye strain symptoms, according to The Vision Council.

What Causes Digital Eye Strain?

You may not notice a difference between reading words on a printed page versus a digital screen, but your eyes certainly do. The letters you see on your screen aren't as crisp and sharp as those you read in a book, which forces your eyes to work harder to focus. Glare, a common problem when viewing digital devices, worsens the problem, as does poor contrast.

Your position may also cause or contribute to your symptoms. If you sit too close or far away from the screen, or if you view a digital screen from an odd angle, you may be more likely to experience eyestrain after just a few hours.

Dry eye, a condition that not only causes eye irritation but can decrease the sharpness of your vision, may be a result of reduced blinking. Blinking keeps your eyes moist, washes away debris and spreads nutrients across your eye. People who work on screens blink as third as often as usual and may not close their eyes completely while blinking, reports All About Vision.

Has it been a while since you've had an eye exam? Blurry vision due to nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism can a contributing factor in digital eye strain.

What Can Be Done About Digital Eye Strain?

You'll probably need to take several steps to improve your symptoms, such as:

  • Getting a New Eyeglass or Contact Lens Prescription. Updating your eyeglass or contact lens prescription will make it easier to see words and images on digital screens.
  • Wearing Computer Glasses. Computer glasses provide sharp vision at 20 to 28 inches, the typical distance between your eyes and a laptop screen or desktop monitor. The glasses also reduce glare and may also protect your eyes from blue light generated by the screen.
  • Improving Ergonomics. Positioning your desk and chair for optimal viewing will also help reduce digital eye strain. The American Optometric Association recommends looking downward at computer screens and notes that computer screens should be about four to five inches below eye level.
  • Using a Filter. Adding a filter to your device will help decrease glare.
  • Improving Lighting. Lighting should be bright enough to allow you to see the screen easily without casting too much glare. If overhead light produces too much glare, use a desk lamp instead.
  • Blinking More Often. You may find that your eye comfort improves if you make an effort to blink periodically when you view digital screens.
  • Following the 20-20-20 Rule. After viewing a screen for 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Taking Breaks. Although the 20-20-20 rule will decrease digital eye strain, it's no substitute for real breaks. After you spend two or three hours staring at a screen, step away from the device and take a 10- or 15-minute break.
  • Using Eye Drops. If dry eyes continue to be a problem despite taking these steps, artificial tears or lubricating eye drops may be helpful.
  • Changing Screen Brightness. Your eyes must work harder to see clearly if your screen is darker or lighter than your surroundings. Change the brightness to ensure that your screen mimics the light level of the room.

Do you have any of the symptoms of digital eye strain? We can help you improve your comfort. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

The Vision Council: Digital Eyestrain

American Optometric Association: Computer Vision Syndrome

BMJ Open Ophthalmology: Digital Eye Strain: Prevalence, Measurement and Amelioration, 2/28

All About Vision: Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps for Relief

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