PUBLIC HEALTH
January 22, 2014

What Screen-Weary Eyes Need

You can ease the strain of hours in front of a screen. Start by giving your monitor a high-five...and blinking.

Most people spend hours every day looking at digital screens; not surprisingly, many experience eyestrain. Over 70% of the country suffers from some form of eye fatigue as the result of too much screen time, according to a new report.

The report offers a dozen suggestions for reducing eyestrain that don't require buying anything more expensive than a dust cloth. It also suggests that people consider ordering special glasses for work at their computers.

Over a quarter of the population spends 10 hours or more with their eyes glued to a screen, yet few take steps to reduce the strain on their eyes.

TVs. Computers. Smart phones. Video game consoles. E-readers. Sixty percent of the country spends at least six hours a day in front of these and other digital devices, according to the Vision Council's survey. Over a quarter of the population exceeds ten hours, yet few take steps to reduce the strain on their eyes while viewing words and images on screen.

Symptoms of eyestrain vary and can include dry, red, irritated and fatigued eyes, blurred vision, back, neck and shoulder pain and headaches.

Some consider eyestrain a necessary cost of living in today's digital world. But it doesn't need to be.

The cure starts with blinking more often. People forget to blink when they're parked in front of a screen. Blinking helps spread tears over the eye, keeping it moist and lubricated. When people forget to blink, their eyes dry out and start hurting.

One way to remind yourself to take a blink break is to put a red dot on one of the keys on your keyboard and train yourself to blink whenever you tap the red key.

Poor ergonomics is responsible for many of the neck and back aches that arise from extended screen time.

When sitting at a computer, have the top of the monitor at eye level or slightly below, so you look straight ahead at it. Constantly staring upwards or downward at the monitor puts too much stress on the neck and back.

Handheld devices are best held slightly below eye level at a comfortable viewing distance and angle.

These are just the most elementary of the tips offered by the council to help cut down on eyestrain. Here's their full list:

  • Adjust the brightness of your device. Consider changing your background color from bright white to cool gray. Attach a glare reduction filter to your computer screen.
  • Dust and wipe digital screens frequently to help reduce glare.
  • Adjust your screen so that it is directly in front of your face and slightly below eye level. Do not tilt a computer monitor.
  • Position yourself or your device so there is sufficient distance between your eyes and the screen.
  • Reduce the amount of overhead and surrounding light competing with your device’s screen.
  • When using a computer, first sit in your chair and extend your arm. Your palm should rest comfortably on the monitor (as if you’re high-fiving the screen).
  • Keep handheld devices a safe distance from your eyes and just below eye level.
  • Adjust the text size (alt+ on most computers) so it is comfortable for your eyes.
  • Remind yourself to blink more often. Staring at a digital screen can affect the number of times you blink, causing eyes to dry.
  • Take a 20-20-20 break: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
  • Parents should be sure to set a good example. Limit the amount of screen time for children, and reduce your own screen time in front of children so as to set healthy standards in the home.

Of course, cutting down on screen time is another way to reduce eyestrain.

Finally, it may be a good idea to speak with your eye doctor regarding the special computer glasses the report recommends. Even when computer screens are located where they should be, they may fall into a zone that is too far for reading glasses and too close for distance vision lenses.
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