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Keep an Eye on Your Eyes

Have you been experiencing neck pains, headaches, eye fatigue, and dry eyes during and after spending a long time in front of a computer? Then you might be experiencing digital eye strain.

When the pandemic started, most of our activities shifted from face-to-face to online. Classes, work, and even our leisure activities such as watching series and shopping were done through gadgets. Since we couldn’t go outside, we were glued to our digital screens from morning until night. In the latest data released by We Are Social, an advertising firm that regularly releases insights on global social media usage, Filipinos spend an average of 10 hours and 56 minutes on the internet using various devices. This prolonged gadget use causes digital eye strain.

What is Digital Eye Strain?

According to the American Optic Association, digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, is a group of eye and vision-related problems that is caused by extended use of gadgets such as cellphones, computers, tablets, and laptops.

When using a computer, our eyes work harder than usual because it focuses more on what we are seeing. Consequently, many people are at risk for developing vision-related problems due to the high visual demands of viewing a computer. According to North Carolina Optometric Society, spending longer time facing digital screens results in digital eye strain because of the following causes:

  • Digital screen glare
  • Poor lighting
  • Poor posture while sitting in front of a computer
  • Improper viewing distances from gadgets
  • Uncorrected vision problems

What are the symptoms of digital eye strain?

Some of the most common symptoms of digital eye strain are:

  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Double Vision
  • Eye discomfort
  • Eye fatigue, itching, redness, and tearing
  • Dry eyes

Depending on how much time we spend in front of our computer screen, we may encounter these symptoms. Some are only temporary and may even go away when we reduce our screen time. Some people, on the other hand, continue to have vision issues. Cases like this should be treated immediately.

How is digital eye strain diagnosed?

Digital eye strain can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. This exam includes:

  • Patient history – to determine the symptoms, general health problems, medications, and environmental factors
  • Visual acuity measurements – to measure the extent of vision affected
  • Refraction – to determine the lens power required to adjust for any refractive errors
  • Testing how the eyes focus, move and work together – to check if there are any other problems

The result of the comprehensive eye examination helps an optometrist determine and diagnose digital eye strain. This can also help them in giving appropriate advice to improve our vision.

How is digital eye strain treated?

Treatment of digital eye strain varies on different people and the symptoms they experience. Some cases are usually treated by reducing the amount of screen time and fixing how they view their computers.

But in some cases, patients are prescribed eyeglasses that are suitable for computer use. Individuals who are already using eyeglasses or contact lenses are prescribed lenses that meet the visual demands of computers. Those cases that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses undergo vision therapy or visual training to improve their eyesight and treat specific problems.

What should be done to prevent digital eye strain?

There are several things that we can do to prevent digital eye strain. Whenever we use our gadgets, remember to do the following:

  • Blinking – We blink roughly 15-20 times every minute on average. However, when we face our computer screens, we blink less than normal, which may lead to dry eyes. To avoid this, blink often so that the surface of the eyes will remain hydrated and moist.
  • 20/20/20 Rule – Do not forget to take a break. Apply the 20/20/20 rule, which means for every 20 minutes, look at a distance of 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This quick exercise helps our eyes to refocus and rest.
  • Location of Computer Screen – The ideal distance between our eyes and the computer screen is 20 to 28 inches. And the middle of the computer screen should be about 15 to 20 degrees below eye level, which is approximately 4 or 5 inches.
  • Lighting – Avoid glare from overhead lighting or windows. Make sure to place the computer somewhere bright enough. Use blinds or drapes, or change your light bulbs to fix the lighting.
  • Anti-glare screens – If we cannot fix the glare from light sources, try using anti-glare screens. This reduces the amount of light reflected from the screen.
  • Seating position – Poor posture causes body aches especially on the upper part of the body. When we face the computer, adjust the chair height so that we keep our feet flat on the floor. Use a comfortable chair that conforms to the body. Also, when typing, don’t let the wrists rest on the keyboard.
  • Regular eye exams – Take some time to visit an optometrist. Eye exams help prevent digital eye strain and other eye-related problems.

Considering the current situation, most of our activities would still have to be conducted online, and spending extended periods in front of our screens is necessary. That is why it is essential to follow these simple tips and keep an eye on our visual health.