7 Ways to Reduce Eye Strain When Using Computers and Smartphones
Richard Gaines, M.D., FAARM, ABAARM
Screens, both large and small, are everywhere in today’s digital world, and according to vision specialists all of that staring into them is taking a toll on your eyes. Digital eye strain is becoming an increasingly common problem. According to the American Optometric Association, as many as 75% percent of people who work with desktop computers report eye problems. Add to that the current ubiquity of smartphones and tablet computers, and the numbers are probably even higher. Headaches, red-eyes, tearing, and double-vision, are the most common eye problems associated with digital eye-strain.
The good news is, there are ways to protect your peepers.
1. Give it a rest – Probably the best way to reduce digital eye strain is to just take a break. Try to take a break every 15 minutes or so, and turn your eyes away from the screen, and look at a more distant object. This will give the muscles in your eye a chance to relax.
2. Blink – Your eyes do blink automatically. However when you are focusing on a task such as working at a screen, you “override” the automatic response. Make a conscious effort to blink every 10 – 15 seconds.
3. Get enough sleep – When you are tired, you have tired eyes, and that condition can only be made worse by computer and smartphone screens.
4. If you wear glasses – If you wear prescription eye glasses for distance, they may help you drive, or watch TV or movies. If you wear reading glasses, the may help you with close-up work. But neither may be the correct adjustment for viewing a computer screen. Check with your eye care professional for specific “technology glasses,” or multi-focal options.
5. Settings – Whether on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, be sure your brightness levels, and font sizes are adjusted for your most comfortable viewing.
6. Look down – Regardless of the device, the experts recommend it should be in front of you at a comfortable distance, and that you should always look slightly down at the screen, and never to look up.
7. Palming – This is a stress-reduction exercise for your eyes. Take a break and close your eyes. Place the centers of your palms over your eyes, and apply very, very gentle pressure while taking in deep breaths, while relaxing your eye muscles.
According to the Vision Council, digital eye strain is not caused by any one device, or behavior, but is the result of many factors caused by over-exposure to, and misuse of, digital screens. However, taking these steps can help minimize discomfort and irritation.