Eye strain has always affected a small number of the population, but with our daily lives now centred around modern technology, it is becoming exceptionally commonplace. By spending more than 2 hours a day working on a laptop, using a smartphone or relaxing with a tablet, many individuals experience a discomfort around the eyes- this is digital eye strain.
It may not be a condition which will cause vision loss or permanent impairment, but digital eye strain may eventually become extremely uncomfortable (to the point where your eyes struggle to focus on anything at all). Most jobs require us to focus on electronic screens for more than 2 hours per day, and then there’s any extra time we spend using them socially; long story short, you may not be able to limit yourself to such little screen time.
Fortunately, there are plenty of little things we can all do ourselves to limit the impact of digital eye strain, or alleviate symptoms altogether.
Preventative eye care can work wonders. Here are a few examples of how you can improve your day-to-day wellbeing and get around eye strain. Just make sure you are professionally diagnosed first to ensure there’s no underlying problem causing your discomfort.
Use proper lighting
Your eye muscles require the least amount of effort to focus when lighting is balanced, edging bright rather than dim. The use of backlighting (i.e. using light behind your monitor) and general ambient light can take a bit of tension from those muscles, easing your strain.
The resting point of accommodation (RPA)
The RPA is the optimal distance between your eyes and your screen at work or home. Generally this is about 31 inches, but most of us are rarely as much as 2 feet away. By finding your most comfortable distance, your eyes will focus much more easily.
Try to sit by walls with a matte finish, and to surround yourself with soft, ambient light where possible. Sharper rays will reflect off the screen and contribute to eye strain.
Get regular eye exams
It is recommended that those who spend a substantial amount of time each day in front of a computer screen should make an extra effort to have their eyes tested. This ensures that your eye health is good, and the optometrist may be able to offer extra advice on reducing your strain.
There are muscles which are used to control the focusing of our eyes. When we look at a digital screen, it is harder to focus than when we look at a large faraway object or a poster. Accordingly, those muscles must work harder, often for prolonged periods of time, without rest. This muscle fatigue manifests itself as discomfort around the eyes, known as digital eye strain.
General discomfort is probably the most common symptom, however if no steps are taken to alleviate it, you may experience any of the following:
You will undergo a comprehensive eye exam which evaluates your overall eye health, as well as looking specifically for signs of eye strain. Once you have been professionally diagnosed, you will receive useful advice to help you lessen the symptoms.
There are a few different options. In general, there is no ‘treatment’ required per se, but just a slight change in routine. If you spend hours every day before a screen, then try the 20:20:20 system: every 20 minutes, spend around 20 seconds looking at (i.e. focusing on) an object at least 20 feet away. This gives your muscles a much-needed chance to relax.
In more extreme cases, there are special filters/coatings for your glasses which absorb more of the blue wavelength light from your monitor. Research suggests this wavelength may be causing damage to the retina. Please feel free to enquire about any treatment options during your exam, as the glasses may not be required for you.