Computer eye strain is a condition that affects between 50% and 90% of people who spend the majority of their time looking at computer screens. Office workers are often affected by it. Still, even children who need to access a computer or tablet for their school work are shown to be at risk of eye strain recently.
When looking at digital screens from an intermediate distance, the muscles that control the eye movement are always active and adjusting to the screen. As this activity stretches over a more extended period, with few or no breaks, the eyes can become dry or tired.
Although it causes discomfort, eye strain is not a permanent condition that threatens your eye health. This article will explain the symptoms you need to be aware of, followed by 10 tips to relieve computer eye strain.
Symptoms of Having an Eye Strain
There are a few determining symptoms that indicate computer eye strain. Although a variety of different factors can cause these symptoms, if you suffer from two or more of the following traits simultaneously and your job requires long hours in front of a screen, they are likely indicative of computer eye strain.
Most people blink a third less frequently when focusing on a screen over a longer time. Due to this, the tear film on the eyes can evaporate, leaving the ocular surface dry and feeling gritty.
Computer eye strain and reduced blinking can also cause chronic conditions such as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD), which results in dry eye symptoms that persist after the end of your working day.
Tension headaches, also described as band headaches, can be caused by concentrating on a computer while sitting in the same position for hours. This type of headache usually starts from the back of the head or upper neck and moves upwards to wrap around the forehead and temples where the pain intensifies.
The wrong posture and work stress may also cause frontal lobe headaches in which mild to severe pain settles in the temples and forehead. Those who regularly experience migraines need to be aware that tension and frontal headaches can develop into a migraine, so try to take precautionary measures.
An intense focus on vision while reading or driving can cause the eyes to tire and feel fatigued. The results can worsen when the focus is set on a bright light source, such as a screen. These effects get exacerbated when the rest of the environment is dimly lit or cast in dark light, causing increased light sensitivity.
Eye fatigue can lead to blurred vision in either one or both eyes. The blurriness usually comes in waves, increasing towards the end of the day.
10 Tips for Computer Eye Strain Relief
If you have a refractive problem (e.g., short or long-sightedness or astigmatism) and have been prescribed to wear corrective glasses or contact lenses while working, it is essential to follow your optician’s advice and get regular eye exams. It ensures that your prescription is up to date and doesn’t cause any unnecessary, additional issues.
Having eye exams will also make sure that no underlying eye conditions go unnoticed, particularly when symptoms may be masked as traits of computer eye strain.
The next 10 tips are actions that you can take to relieve computer eye strain.
Using over the counter lubricating eye drops can help relieve dry eyes. But by making simple adjustments to keep your body and environment healthy and hydrated, you can lessen the chances of your eyes becoming gritty and sore.
2. Drink Water
Dehydration affects your whole body, including the eyes, and drinking a sufficient amount of water every day to keep your body and your eyes hydrated can let you avoid dry eyes.
On average, a person should drink eight glasses of water a day. However, healthy water intake always relies on your size and weight and whether you exercise every day. You can ask your physician about the recommended water intake for you to keep your body hydrated and eyes healthy.
3. Avoid Dry Air
In addition to hydrating your body, it matters to pay attention to the air quality in your work environment. (Read about choosing the correct light bulbs for eye health here: I Wish I Knew These Tips on Choosing the Right Light Bulbs for Eye Health Earlier)
Many offices use air conditioners, fans, and ventilators that can move dust around the air. It can disrupt the tear film leading to dryness and irritation.
Try moving the fans so that they are not directed at your face.
Where possible, make sure that your surrounding is free from dust. The moisture in the air can increase by using desk humidifiers.
4. Take Breaks
Scheduling time away from the computer screen does not only give your eyes but also your mind a chance to relax and unwind.
Studies show that those who work with computers experience less eye strain and discomfort when they take micro-breaks throughout the day. Getting up from the desk to move around and stretch your limbs for a few minutes can reduce back and neck pains that may occur after sitting at your desk for hours as well.
Every time we blink, we cover our eyes in a layer of tear-film, keeping them moisturized and feeling comfortable. Research reveals that when staring at a computer screen or reading for a prolonged period, people blink up to two thirds less frequently than usual, often only closing the lids partially instead of covering the eyes completely. It causes the tear film to evaporate and eyes to feel dry and uncomfortable.
If you become aware that you blink less, ideally, you can try to make a habit of blinking more often. However, as this adjustment isn’t always possible to achieve, you can try setting a reminder every 20 minutes, using this time to blink slowly or close your eyes completely. Do it for approximately ten times in a row and focus on a spot far away from your desk to relax your eye muscles.
6. Eat Snacks for Eye Health
Aside from a healthy lunch, you can make time for snack breaks, eating fruits and nuts high in vitamins A, C, and E to support the complexity of cells in your retina. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in walnuts and almonds and used in practice to help combat dry eyes. Of course, the intake of the proper vitamins could also be achieved through supplements.
7. Sleeping Schedule
During sleep, your eyes are refreshed with nutrients and tears, making a regulated sleeping schedule necessary for healthy and happy eyes. Sleep deprivation, however, can cause the blood vessels in our eyes to dilate, leading to irritation and eye fatigue during the day.
A set work schedule and the regulated sleeping cycle can help you to reset your eyes at the end of the day and ensure that you get appropriate rest overnight. To relax in the evening, try to avoid looking at screens, including TVs and smartphones, as the blue light from digital screens has been linked to promoting brain activity. Instead, try building a nighttime routine that includes tasks like cooking or tidying.
8. The Right Setup
Digital eye strain caused by computers can be induced by several factors, such as small images and fonts and flickering lights. You can try simple adjustments like increasing the pixel and font size on your computer or upgrading your desktop to a larger flat-panel LCD screen, ideally with a diagonal size of 19 inches.
Nevertheless, below are a couple of easy changes that you can make to achieve that. They don’t require buying new and expensive equipment.
9. Screen Position
The screen position and angle can alter your eyes’ focus when you look. As a result, it can increase eye strain if you place the monitor at an incorrect angle.
For an ideal work setup, try positioning your screen at about an arm’s length away from your face. That’s at least 20 inches apart but no further than 40 inches. If you can adjust its height, it should be centered 4 or 5 inches below eye level, so you don’t have to tilt your head too far up or down. The latter can also increase eye and neck strains.
10. Appropriate Lighting
It’s not only the lighting of your screen but also your work environment that can impact your eye health.
One factor is background light and the glare on your screen, considering reflections may make you squint, thus leading to tired eyes and frontal headaches. To avoid that, the screen should be facing away from windows or natural light sources. If this isn’t possible in your workplace, you can try using blinds or curtains to block direct light.
Additionally, the color temperature of most screens is set to a blue light, which has often been associated with eye strain. Blue light uses shorter wavelengths than red or orange light, which means it emits higher energy and causes the muscles of your eyes to strain. You can change these settings with most computers and smartphones by switching to night mode. Alternatively, you can opt for blue-light-blocking lenses on your glasses to relieve eye strain.
Computer eye strain can be uncomfortable and annoying. Still, luckily, you can get relief by following the simple tips above without needing to buy expensive equipment or take complex supplement regimes.
Should you feel like your eye strain persists even after trying everything, it might be time to set an appointment with your optometrist. They will be able to examine your eyes and check for underlying issues that prescription updating or eye drops may resolve.
By Roshni Patel Roshni Patel is a qualified Optometrist