Do you ever find yourself rubbing your eyes, blinking repeatedly and looking away from your computer screen? You may be experiencing eyestrain.
Eyestrain is a common condition that can develop from reading for long periods without taking breaks to rest your eyes, exposure to bright lights or glare, straining to see when it’s too dim, having an underlying eye condition, or being overly stressed or fatigued. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include tired, burning, itchy, watery or dry eyes; double vision; sensitivity to light; and difficulty concentrating. Eyestrain also can cause headaches as well as back, shoulder and neck pain
For most people, eyestrain results from focusing too intently on a screen and not blinking enough, according to AOA. To help relieve eyestrain, try to blink more or use artificial tears. Other tips recommended:
- Ensure your working space is properly lit. This may mean closing blinds to prevent glare and avoiding fluorescent lights.
- To help diminish glare, place an anti-glare screen on your monitor and paint walls dark colors.
- Take regular rest breaks (every few hours for five minutes) to allow your eyes to relax.
- Position your monitor 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes.
- Ask your eye care provider about devices that might help, such as anti-reflective lenses or bifocal lenses.
- If the text size on your monitor is too small, adjust it until it is big enough to comfortably read. Generally, this means increasing the text size by about three times.
- If you are younger than 40, AOA recommends seeing an eye doctor at least every other year; people 40 and older should make annual appointments.
Whether it’s a work computer, a home laptop or our ever-present smartphones, chances are you stare at some type of screen for hours each day. This can lead to vision problems. “Focusing on tiny type for hours on end can cause eyestrain, fatigue and headaches,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology cautions. “Staring at screens for long periods can also leave eyes parched, red and gritty-feeling.”
The Mayo Clinic states that eyestrain is a common condition that occurs when a person’s eyes get tired from intense use, and “people who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day have the greatest risk of this condition.”
Take a break
AAO recommends taking the following steps to prevent eyestrain:
Keep your screen at arm’s length. When working with a desktop computer, keep the screen about 25 inches from your face, or about an arm’s length away. If doing so makes the words on the screen appear too small, adjust the font size.
Mind the glare. Screen glare from lighting can irritate your eyes; try a matte filter for your screen to help diminish glare.
Give your eyes rest time. AAO notes that eyestrain occurs after long and continuous screen use, and recommends workers follow the “20-20-20 rule”: Take a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes time to relax.
Avoid dry eyes. Try using a personal humidifier at your desk to help keep your eyes moisturized. Additionally, keep eye drops handy to lubricate your eyes if they feel particularly dry.
Pay attention to lighting. If your screen is too bright, your eyes have to work harder. Adjust your screen’s brightness, as well as the lighting in your office or home, to reduce eyestrain.