Help Prevent Digital Eye Strain

Wherever you go these days, chances are, there’s a digital device within your reach. And staring at all those smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices can keep you connected to work, family, and friends—but it can also give you dry eyes, blurry vision, and sore head, neck, and shoulder muscles.

In a survey conducted by The Vision Council1, nearly 60% of American adults reported symptoms of digital eye strain, which can include dry or red eyes, blurred vision, pain in the neck or shoulders, and even headaches.

So what can you do to help prevent digital eye strain? You’re not about to give up those devices, right? You need them for work, entertainment, information, your social life, and more. Going cold turkey to get rid of digital eye strain simply isn’t an option.

Take proactive action with these eye strain remedies

Learn how to relieve eye strain by taking these steps from the American Optometric Association (AOA)2:

1. Take breaks after prolonged device use. Rest for 15 minutes after two hours of continuous device use. Get out of your chair, take a walk, and stretch your legs. Getting the blood flowing is so good for your eyes—and so many other parts of your body!

2. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something at least 20 feet away. Doing this relaxes the focusing muscle inside your eyes, so there’s less pain and strain from focusing fatigue.

3. Blink more. Most of us are so caught up in what we’re staring at that we forget to blink, and don’t do it as often as we should, which can lead to dry eyes. Studies show that people blink 66% less often when looking at a screen.3 Blink slowly and often, to keep your eyes moist. (Using lubricating eye drops, like Rohto® Digi Eye®, can give your eyes additional moisture.)

4. Find the right distance between your eyes and your desktop computer screen—and maintain it. The ideal “sweet spot” is 20-28 inches from your eyes plus the center of the device, about 15 – 20 degrees (approximately 4 to 5 inches) below eye level, so get out your tape measure and adjust. Also, check the size of the fonts you commonly use, and adjust them, too. And be sure your feet are flat on the floor when you’re working.

5. Reduce the glare. Install an anti-glare screen protector for your desktop computer, or download one of many free apps that can filter blue light on your portable devices. You can also adjust the brightness on your screen so that it isn’t brighter than your surroundings. And raise the contrast on your screen, too.

More easy changes you can make to help prevent digital eye strain

In addition to these five steps from the AOA, you can make additional modifications to your lifestyle and environment:

> Improve your air quality. Think about using a humidifier in any room where you have a desktop computer or other device. Minimize the amount of air that’s blowing in your face, to help with dry eyes. And if you’re a smoker, try to quit.

> Make changes to your eyewear. If you wear contact lenses, try wearing your regular glasses instead. And if you’re on a computer a lot, think about getting a dedicated pair of glasses just for that work. Also, be sure to purchase glasses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating, which reduces glare by minimizing light that reflects off of both sides of your eyeglasses.

> Get regular eye exams. According to the Vision Council, only 20.5 percent of American adults confirm having an annual eye exam and discussing digital device usage4. Your eye care provider can help! Tell yours about your digital device usage, and how often you use a computer at work and at home.

> Raise the refresh rate of your digital device. Doing this will result in less flickering on its screen.

> Change your lighting. If you’ve got too much sunlight streaming in, have bright fluorescent lights, or high-intensity light bulbs, chances are, you’ve got digital eye strain. Close those blinds and shades. Swap your fluorescent lights for indirect light from a floor or table lamp. And use soft-white LED bulbs.

> Get rid of the “blues.” Use lightly tinted lenses that filter out potentially harmful blue light given off by digital devices. Also, reducing the color temperature of your screen can also reduce the amount of blue light emitted.

> Use a document holder. This is ideal for holding printed materials that you need to look at while you’re doing computer work. A holder can prevent you from turning your head and neck too much.

> Consider taking a supplement. In a randomized controlled trial, bilberry extract and omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil helped relieve digital eye strain symptoms, but more research is needed5. Always ask your health care provider if supplements are right for you.

By making a few simple changes to how you use digital devices—and how you live your life— you can help prevent digital eye strain. So don’t give up your screens and your digital lifestyle!