Digital Eye Strain

It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear the average person spends 4-5 hours per day on a mobile device. This doesn’t even include all the other time spent using electronic devices, such as TVs or PCs. Changing these habits is not likely to happen anytime soon, so let’s demystify the eyes and screen time.

You may wonder if all this screen time is bad for your eyes. The good news is the old adage that watching too much TV will ruin your eyes is false. The bad news is that too much screen time can certainly make your eyes feel miserable.

There is also much debate today about blue light from computer screens and the possibility that it can damage your eyes. To date, there is no evidence that the type or amount of light from computer screens can damage the eyes. The light emanating from computer screens is not the same as damaging light from the sun.

“The type of light that can damage your eyes is the UV light from the sun,” John A. Waters, MD, says. “UV light from the sun has been linked to cataracts and macular degeneration.”

If you spend hours each day on an electronic device, you may be experiencing Digital Eye Strain. Some of the most common symptoms of digital eye strain are:

  • Tired, achy eyes
  • Blurry vision, especially by the end of the day
  • Eyes that feel dry or sticky
  • Eyes that are red or painful

Dr. Waters finds many patients with these symptoms. “I know a patient is likely suffering from digital eye strain when they say, ‘my eyes are giving out on me’ after they’ve been on a computer all day. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to help treat this problem.”

Use the 20-20-20 Rule
Taking frequent breaks is important. Every 20 minutes look away from the device to an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more.

Normally people blink about 15 times per minute, but when using electronic devices, we only blink 5-7 times a minute. That is not enough to keep the surface of the eye lubricated, which can lead to that sticky dry feeling. Blink on purpose more often to help.

Use Preservative-Free Lubricating Drops
An over-the-counter drop like Thera Tears Preservative Free Lubricating drop comes in individual vials and can be used as often as needed to help sooth dry eyes. Dr. Waters recommends patients with dry eyes use them at least 4 times a day. Avoid bottled tears with preservatives, which can potentially worsen symptoms with long-term use.

Wear Antireflective and/or Computer Lenses
Computer lenses are made for intermediate vision – the type of vision we most often use with a computer. They come with anti-reflection to help relax the eyes and make them more comfortable for long-term computer use.

Avoid overhead lighting and Adjust Computer Brightness
Adjust the brightness on your computer screen and avoid harsh overhead lighting. Make sure the computer screen is not brighter than your surroundings. Increasing the contrast can also help.

Give your Contact Lenses a Break
If you wear contacts, give them a break and wear your glasses. Contacts can make symptoms of dry sticky eyes worse with prolonged use.