In our modern world, screen time is a necessity. Between jobs or school, social engagement, entertainment, and everyday tasks, the average American spends seven hours looking at screens each day.
And now that remote work is the norm in many jobs, people are spending even more time on screens than they used to.
Although it’s a necessity, excessive screen time can be tough on your eyes. It can cause eye fatigue, dry eye, and even headaches.
Although screen time doesn’t necessarily cause permanent damage to your eyes, it can cause discomfort and irritation that can make it difficult to work or enjoy your favorite activities.
But don’t worry. There are ways to adjust your habits — and your computer settings — to minimize the harmful and unpleasant effects of excessive screen time.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
With all the time people are spending on screens these days, there’s a new set of symptoms affecting our eyes. It’s called computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain.
Computer vision syndrome occurs when your eyes are working hard to take in the information on a screen.
Reading things on a screen is harder on your eyes than reading things on paper. Sometimes the text doesn’t contrast against the background enough, or the angle of your screen creates a glare, making it more difficult to read.
Sometimes the font on a screen is smaller than what your eyes would comfortably like to take in. This makes your eyes work harder to focus on the words.
Usually, this discomfort is so slight you don’t notice your eyes are working harder — until a few hours or days have gone by.
Digital eye strain symptoms include:
- Eye pain: soreness, itching, burning, or fatigue
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Dry eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
Computer vision syndrome (or digital eye strain) typically doesn’t cause permanent damage to your eyes, but it can make work and everyday life unpleasant.
There are several adjustments you can make to your work setup to find computer eye strain relief.
How to Relieve Eye Strain
The best way to relieve eye strain is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Even though spending time on screens might be required, a few simple adjustments can make a world of difference in your comfort.
1. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
The 20-20-20 rule advises looking away from your screen every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Keep your eyes focused on that object, whether it’s something in your home or outside the window. This gives your eyes a chance to adjust and relax.
If you need help remembering, you can set a recurring timer for every 20 minutes reminding you to take breaks.
Your eyes don’t blink as frequently when looking at things on a screen as they do when reading. Blinking lubricates your eyes, so not doing it as often can cause dry eyes.
As often as you can remember, blink while working and looking at screens. The more frequently you blink, the more moisture your eyes maintain.
3. Adjust Your Setup
Make sure your screen is close enough that your eyes aren’t having to squint or strain to see the screen.
This will also help your posture and alignment – when the screen is too far forward, you push your head forward to see better, rounding your shoulders and upper back. That can lead to pain and ongoing problems in your neck and back.
Move your chair forward or your screen back so you can easily see. Make sure your screen is at the appropriate height so it doesn’t encourage poor posture.
4. Adjust Your Screen
Computers let off blue light, which can be difficult on your retinas and increase the risk of eye strain.
Adjust the settings on your screen to make the colors on your monitor more yellow than blue.
Adjust your brightness, too. Staring at bright screens can irritate your eyes, so adjust your monitor to as low of a brightness setting as possible before it gets difficult to see.
Some computers also have the option of inverting colors so the background is dark and the text is white. Try these settings and see if your eyes feel more relaxed after a few hours.
5. Wear Blue Light Glasses
If your eyes are feeling strained often, you might want to try wearing blue light glasses.
Blue light glasses filter out some of the blue light coming from your computer screens, which may reduce eye strain.
Research on blue light glasses is mixed, but they can’t hurt, and some people report that wearing them makes their eyes feel better.
It is proven, though, that wearing blue light glasses can improve sleep.
Blue light from screens can interfere with your circadian rhythms, making it more difficult to fall or stay asleep. By wearing blue light glasses, especially an hour or two before bed, you can help your body slow down and fall asleep more easily.
Care for Your Eyes with Regular Eye Exams
If your eyes hurt from too much screen time, it’s important to make sure your prescriptions are up to date.
Wearing old glasses or contacts — or none at all when you need them — can make eye strain much worse.
Make sure your eyes are in great health by regularly seeing your eye doctor. At Eye Care Center of Northern Colorado, we support patients of all ages in taking great care of their eyes.
During your exam and consultation, we’ll track the health of your eyes and offer more advice for alleviating computer eye strain symptoms.
Our offices in Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont, and Greeley are currently accepting new patients!