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What Is Digital Eye Strain?

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A young woman working on her laptop while sitting at a table. She's taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes due to digital eye strain

While technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in many ways, it also comes with drawbacks, one of which is digital eye strain. Also known as computer vision syndrome, digital eye strain refers to a group of eye and vision-related problems resulting from prolonged use of digital devices such as computers, tablets, e-readers, and cell phones. 

It is common in today’s digital age, where many people spend several hours a day looking at digital screens. The strain on the eyes comes from the intense focus required by these devices over extended periods, often without adequate breaks.

It is important to know how to prevent digital eye strain and what to do to alleviate symptoms when you’re experiencing strain. But it all starts with regular eye exams at Trail Vision Care Clinic to make sure you’re on the right track for healthy eyes.

What Causes Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain can occur due to several factors associated with prolonged screen time:

Blue Light Exposure

Digital screens come with a downside due to their emission of blue light. While not inherently harmful in moderation, this specific wavelength of light can significantly affect the body’s natural rhythms and eye health when overexposed, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Screen Glare & Reflections

Glare, the excessive brightness resulting from direct light sources shining on the screen, and reflections, the visible images of objects and lights on the screen’s surface, can impact the quality of what we see on our screens and how comfortably we can view content.

Poor Ergonomics

Practicing good ergonomics and maintaining correct posture are essential for comfort while using digital devices. When seated at your desk, make sure that you’re sitting straight with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Avoid slouching or rounding your shoulders, and keep your neck in a straight line with your spine.

Position your devices at eye level, and place your keyboard and mouse close enough to eliminate the need for stretching.

Incorrect viewing distances, angles, and posture while using digital devices contribute to eye strain and physical discomfort. In an era where screens dominate both work and leisure, understanding the ergonomic considerations of device usage is crucial for maintaining visual and bodily health.

Reduced Blinking

Under normal circumstances, a person blinks about 17 times per minute. This natural reflex helps spread tear film evenly over the eye’s surface, keeping it moisturized and free from irritants. However, this rate can decrease by as much as half when focusing on screens. The reduced blink rate while staring at screens can lead to insufficient eye lubrication, resulting in dry eyes.

Device Settings

When reading on your digital device, enhance the font size to reduce the need for squinting. Additionally, adjust the contrast and colour tones to make sure they are set in a way that maximizes your visual comfort.

Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

Recognizing the symptoms of digital eye strain is crucial for early intervention and prevention. Common symptoms include:

  • Eye discomfort: This can manifest as dryness, irritation, burning, or a feeling of grittiness in the eyes.
  • Blurred vision: Prolonged screen time can cause temporary blurring of vision, particularly at close distances.
  • Headaches: Eyestrain often leads to tension headaches, especially around the temples or forehead.
  • Neck and shoulder pain: Poor posture while using digital devices can result in neck and shoulder discomfort.
  • Difficulty focusing: Some individuals may experience difficulty shifting focus between screens and other objects.
A woman sitting on a couch with her smart phone and tablet sitting next to her. She has her glasses off and she's rubbing her eyes due to eye strain

Preventing Digital Eye Strain

Fortunately, several strategies can help prevent or reduce digital eye strain:

  • Implement frequent breaks: To combat eye strain and dryness, use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, pause for 20 seconds to gaze at something at least 20 feet away.
  • Prioritize blinking: Screen time tends to reduce our blinking rate, leading to drier eyes. Remembering to blink regularly, especially during breaks, helps maintain a healthy eye surface.
  • Opt for lubricating eye drops: Consider using lubricating eye drops for additional eye comfort. Consulting with an optometrist will help you find the most suitable option.
  • Consider computer glasses: Some individuals might find relief and focus enhancement through specially designed computer glasses.
  • Minimize screen glare: Make sure your screen is clean from fingerprints and dust to enhance visibility. Position your screen to avoid reflections from windows and other light sources.
  • Optimize screen settings: Adjust your screen’s font size, contrast, and brightness to be eye-friendly. On a computer, the screen should be positioned over an arm’s length away (>50cm) and tilted 20 degrees below eye level for optimal viewing.

With the increasing use of digital devices, it’s vital to be aware of our screen habits and foster practices that support eye health. For issues like computer vision syndrome or more advice, it’s recommended to consult an optometry specialist.

Protecting Your Vision in the Digital Age

Digital eye strain is a common problem in today’s technology-driven world. It affects individuals of all ages who spend extended periods in front of screens. 

Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing preventive measures can minimize the risk of developing digital eye strain and protect your eye health in the long run. 

Remember to prioritize breaks, practice good screen habits, and seek professional help if you experience persistent eye discomfort or vision problems. Book your next eye exam with Trail Vision Care Clinic–your eyes will thank you! 

Written by Trail Vision Care Clinic

At Trail Vision Care, our medically-focused and experienced eye doctors treat each patient with compassion, as if they were our neighbours or kin. We use high-end technology and equipment to evaluate your eye health and address any ocular conditions appropriately.

We’re an all-in-one eye care centre, where the patients know the staff on a first-name basis. Stopping by Trail Vision Care might feel like chatting with a friend—we embody the mountain-town feel that comes with the territory.

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