Every day, more and more people rely on computers, laptops, and smartphones to gather and digest information. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 77 million people use a computer or laptop at work, which accounts for more than half the percentage of total employment in the workforce.
With the percentage of computer use increasing, the time spent on the computer increases, resulting in an increased percentage of eye-straining. According to research, 50% to 90% of people in the workforce who use computers complain of eyestrain symptoms. Extended use of computers and other digital devices is one of the most common causes of eyestrain.
Taking care of your eyes is imperative and experiencing eyestrain shouldn’t be taken lightly. In honor of Workplace Eye Wellness Month, we’re going to explain what eyestrain actually is and how you can take simple steps to relieve it.
What Is Eyestrain?
Eyestrain, medically known as Asthenopia, is a condition that happens when your eyes are tired from strenuous use like driving for long periods of time or spending hours on the computer.
Eyestrain is also known as Computer Vision Syndrome, and it happens because your eyes are constantly moving to follow the same sequence over and over.
Causes of Eyestrain
When you work on the computer, your eyes are continuously moving back and forth as you read. Sometimes you have to look down at your papers and then back at your computer screen, and doing this can put a strain on your eyes.
Computer screens have a lot of motion, flicker, and glare, and your eyes respond to those images so your brain can process what you are seeing. All these tasks your eyes are doing requires a lot of effort for your eye muscles.
Common causes of eyestrain include:
- Looking at digital screens for a long period of time
- Exposure to dry moving air from a heating or air-conditioning system or fan
- Reading without resting your eyes
- Straining to see in an area with dark lighting
- Exposure to glare or bright lights
- Stress and fatigue
Symptoms of Eyestrain
Eyestrain can be irritating and often distracting, but it’s not a life-threatening condition. Eyestrain typically goes away once you rest your eyes.
People who use computers for more than two hours in a row every day are at a higher risk of this condition and make be experiencing the following symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tired, sore, itching, or burning eyes
- Watery or dry eyes
- Double or blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Sore neck, back, or shoulders
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
With computers becoming commonplace for the workforce, more and more people are experiencing computer vision syndrome. Although it isn’t as serious as other eye-related conditions, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Instead, we should take the necessary steps to relieve this discomfort. Fortunately, we’ve provided you a simple guide to help prevent and relieve eyestrain.
Tips for Relieving Eyestrain
Nowadays, many of us have jobs that require us to stare at a computer screen for hours on end. Not only do we have to rely on computers at work, but almost 80% of Americans have computers, desktops, laptops and tablets in their households.
This means working adults aren’t the only ones affected; kids who stare at tablets or use computers at school are likely to experience this pain too. Try using the following tips to help you relieve your eyestrain discomfort:
1. Revamp Your Workstation
Looking back and forth from your computer to a printed page can put a strain on your eyes. Poor posture can contribute to eye strain as well, so try:
- Placing printed pages on a copy stand or place them beside your monitor at eye level.
- Adjusting your workstation to a comfortable height.
- Purchasing work-friendly furniture that will help you sit 20 to 24 inches from your computer screen. Make sure the center of your screen is about 10 to 15 degrees below to relieve tension off of your neck and head.
2. Exercise Your Eyes
Another contributing factor to eyestrain is focusing fatigue. To relieve your overworked and tired eyes, try following these simple exercises:
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: look away from your computer screen at least every 20 minutes and stare at a distant object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Look at a far away object for 10 to 15 seconds, then look at a nearby object for 10 to 15 seconds. Again, look back at the distant object for 10-15 seconds. Try this 10 times.
3. Try Blinking More Often
We tend to blink less often when working at a computer. We blink about one-third as often as we normally do, which leaves our eyes dry and irritated. Blinking is imperative when working on a computer because it helps moisten our eyes, preventing irritation and dryness.
To reduce the risk of dry eyes when using the computer, try this simple exercise:
- Blink 10 times by closing your eyes very slowly every 20 minutes.
4. Give Your Eyes a Break
To relieve computer vision syndrome, as well as neck, back and shoulder pain, take frequent breaks from your computer during the day. Five minutes should do the trick. During your break, stand up and stretch your legs, back, arms, shoulders, and neck to reduce muscle fatigue and tension.
5. Modifying your Computer Display Settings
Modifying your computer settings can help reduce the fatigue and eyestrain. Try adjusting your computer’s brightness, text size, contrast, and color temperature.
- Brightness: Modify the brightness of your display to the same brightness of your surrounding workstation. Make sure it isn’t too bright or too dark.
- Text size and contrast: Modify the text size to your personal preference of comfort. When reading long documents increase the text size so your eyes won’t have to work as hard to see. Using black print on a white background is preferred.
- Color temperature: Adjusting the amount of “blue light” emitted by your computer screen can help as well. Blue light is a short-wavelength, visible light that contributes to eyestrain more than longer wavelengths like red or orange. Reducing your computer’s color temperature will lower the amount of blue light showing through your display, promoting long-term viewing comfort.
We’ve all heard about how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if we can’t rely on our eyes, we won’t be able to see the beauty in anything. As we get older, the lenses in our eyes become less flexible, which will make it harder for our eyes to function.
We should take care of our eyes just like we do the rest of our body. Try using lubricating eye drops to prevent dryness and irritation, and consider customized computer glasses for eye comfort. Most importantly, remember to get frequent eye exams with an eye doctor to make sure your eyes are getting the proper attention they need.
What Is Computer Vision Syndrome? (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/computer-vision-syndrome#1
FACS, A. A. (n.d.). Eye Strain Symptoms, Relief, Prevention, Causes & Treatment. Retrieved March 07, 2018, from https://www.medicinenet.com/eye_strain/article.htm#how_do_health_care_professionals_diagnose_eye_strain
Lewis, C. R. (2017, September 11). Library. Retrieved March 07, 2018, from https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2017/acs/acs-37.html