What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is the temporary discomfort that follows two or more hours of digital device use. A variety of electronic devices can cause digital eye strain, including televisions, desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and gaming systems, especially when they are used simultaneously or when switching repeatedly from one device to another.
What Are the Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?
- Red, dry or irritated eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
- Back, neck and shoulder pain
What Causes Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is not caused by one isolated event or behavior. Irritation and discomfort can be the result of many issues. Digital devices often feature small print and pixelated images that can be difficult to read and cause our eyes to strain in order to focus. We may also be using the devices improperly by holding them at the wrong angle or too far from our eyes. Blue light, also referred to as high-energy visible (HEV) light, is another cause of computer eye strain. It is emitted by digital devices and increases eye strain more so than other colors that have a longer wavelength. It may also contribute to vision problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Digital eye strain can also be exacerbated in adults who wear prescription eyewear. This is because the corrective lenses they wear are oftentimes not intended for viewing the mid-distance range of computers and electronics.
Preventing Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain can be prevented by limiting digital media use, but for the vast majority of Americans who cannot – or will not – reduce their usage, there are multiple ways to lessen screen time’s impact on your eyes.
Start by paying attention to your body. Eye, neck, head or shoulder pains are warning signs that digital eye strain may be occurring. Before your eyes feel fatigued or irritated, and before the warning signs of digital eye strain appear, try the following remedies to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Keep your distance. Position your device so there is sufficient distance between your eyes and the screen.
- For computers, extend your arm while seated in front of the computer monitor. The correct distance to be seated from the screen occurs when you can comfortably place your palm flat on the monitor, as though you were high-fiving the screen.
- For hand-held devices, hold the device just below eye level and at a distance that still enables you to comfortably read the screen.
Reduce glare. Adjust the brightness of your screen by checking the device’s control setting. Consider changing your background color from bright white to a cooler gray. Glare reduction filters are also available and easily attach to computer screens.
Clean your screen. A dust-free, smudge-free screen helps reduce glare.
Dim surrounding lights. Reduce the amount of light competing with your device’s screen. Dim inside lights, and when outdoors, try to avoid competing with direct sunlight while using your digital device. Doing so will help reduce glare and eye strain.
Adjust your screen. Regardless of what type of device you’re using, digital screens should always be directly in front of your face and slightly below eye level.
Increase text size. Try increasing text size to help better define screen content and to make reading more comfortable for your eyes.
Wear computer glasses. Computer glasses are an increasingly popular solution for reducing both computer eye strain and the potentially damaging effects that increased digital use can have on vision. They help the eye adjust to intermediate-distance objects, such as computer screens, are available in all shapes and sizes and can be made with or without a prescription. They look like regular glasses but the difference is in the lens. Depending on your visual needs, some computer glasses have a modified lens power that relaxes the eye while providing a large field of view, while other computer glasses feature an anti-reflective coating that helps combat eye strain by softening the glare from harsh indoor and outdoor lighting and improving contrast. Some computer glasses even feature lenses that selectively absorb harmful blue light, preventing it from entering the cornea and causing eye damage. Computer glasses can include all three of these features or only the feature or features that your eyes need.
Blink more often. Staring at a digital screen can reduce how often you blink, causing eyes to become dry. Remind yourself to blink more often, which also helps the eyes refocus.
Take a 20-20-20 break. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. Even short breaks make a huge difference.