Digital eye strain isn’t contagious but is rather ye strain. Digital eye strain as defined by The Vision Council is, “the physical discomfort after screen use for longer than two hours at a time.”
Normally, you blink about 15 times a minute, but studies show that we blink half to a third that often while using computers and other digital screen devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive “near work” can also cause eye strain.
Common digital eye strain symptoms include redness, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision and neck, and shoulder pain. The good news is that while these symptoms are uncomfortable, they are preventable. However, if your eyes are consistently red, blurry or watery, or they become sensitive to light or painful, see an ophthalmologist immediately.
How to Prevent Digital Eye Strain – The 20-20-20 Rule
To avoid digital eye strain, it is impractical to expect adults to significantly reduce using digital technology, especially if your job requires using digital devices for more than a couple of hours daily. However, you can manage your work or play patterns to avoid digital eye strain.
In addition to applying artificial tears for quick relief of dry eyes, you can incorporate the simple 20-20-20 rule that allows your eyes to relax and reset. It’s as simple as setting aside 20 seconds every 20 minutes to focus on an object that’s 20 feet away. To get started:
1. Set alarm for every 20 minutes.
2. Stop looking at your digital screen for 20 seconds and focus on an object that’s 20 feet away.
Believe it or not, after following this strategy for a few days you’ll get used to taking these short breaks, which you can also use to visit the restroom, refill your water glass or just get up and take a good stretch. These are also great ways to refresh and reboot your brain.
The following are a few additional tips for reducing digital eye strain:
- Sit about 25 inches from the +screen and position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
- Reduce glare by using a matte screen filter if needed.
- Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule.
- Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry. Consider using a humidifier.
- Adjust your room lighting so your eyes don’t have to strain to focus and try increasing the contrast on your screen.
- Contact lens wearers should not sleep in contacts even if they are labeled “extended wear” and wear reading glasses, if appropriate.
Long-Term Effects of Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain is actually more of a compilation of symptoms than a condition and doesn’t cause permanent damage. By treating the symptoms and making a few simple changes you can restore eye comfort.
The bottom line is that it’s important to check in with your eye doctor for an eye appointment at least once a year to ensure that you have the correct prescription for your eyeglasses and that there isn’t an underlying issue with your eye health.