Did you know that the average person spends 11+ hours a day on electronic media?
Computers, tablets, e-readers, smart phones and other electronic devices with visual display screens can cause fatigue, eyestrain and dry eyes.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing these symptoms.
- Get a comprehensive eye examination: Having a routine eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.
- Use proper lighting: Eyestrain may be caused by excessively bright light, either from sunlight coming in through a window or from harsh interior lighting. Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades or blinds. Reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs/fluorescent tubes or use lower intensity bulbs and tubes. If possible, position your computer screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front of or behind it. Many computer users find their eyes feel better if they can avoid working under overhead fluorescent lights. If possible, turn off the overhead fluorescent lights in your office and use floor lamps that provide indirect incandescent or halogen lighting instead.
- Minimize glare: Glare on walls and finished surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen can also cause computer eye strain. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor and, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish. If you wear glasses, purchase lenses with anti-reflective coating. AR coating reduces glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.
- Upgrade your monitor: If you have not already done so, replace your old tube-style monitor with a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD). LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have a built-in anti-reflective surface. When choosing a new flat panel display, make sure to select a large display (at least 19 inches) with the highest resolution possible.
- Adjust your settings: Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue.
- Brightness. Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
- Text size/contrast. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
- Color temperature. Reduce the color temperature of your display to lower the amount of blue light emitted for better long-term viewing comfort.
- Blink more often: Blinking is very important, especially when working on a computer. It moistens your eyes to prevent dryness and irritation. When working at a computer, people blink less frequently — about one-third as often as they normally should— and, according to recent studies, many blinks while on the computer are only partial lid closure. Tears coating the eye evaporate more rapidly during long, non-blinking phases and this can lead to dry eyes. If you experience any dry eye symptoms throughout the day, talk to our doctors about your treatment options. To reduce your risk of dry eyes during computer use, try this exercise: every 20 minutes, blink 10 times by closing your eyes as if falling asleep (very slowly).
- Take time to refocus your eyes: Another cause of computer eye strain is focusing fatigue caused by constantly looking at your screen. To reduce your risk of fatigue, we recommend that you try to look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds. Looking far away relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye to reduce fatigue.
- Take frequent breaks: To reduce your risk of eyestrain and neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent breaks during your computer work day. Try to take two 15 minute breaks and four 5 minute “mini-breaks” from your computer throughout the day. Studies show that taking breaks does not reduce productivity, but actually improves data entry speed. During your computer breaks, stand up, move around and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to reduce tension and muscle fatigue.
- Modify your work station: Looking back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen can also cause eye strain. If needed, place written pages on a copy stand adjacent to your monitor and light the copy stand properly. Improper posture during computer work also contributes to computer vision syndrome. Make sure to adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height. Your computer screen should be 20-24 inches from your eyes and the center of your screen should be about 10-15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.
- Consider computer eyewear: For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having our doctors modify your glasses prescription to create customized computer glasses and, as previously mentioned, adding anti-reflective coating to your lenses to reduce the glare from your computer screen. Computer glasses are also a good choice if you wear lined bifocals or reading glasses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.