8 Tips to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

In this modern age of technology, it seems that everyone is spending more time staring at their computer screen, smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device. People who routinely use their digital devices are having increasing issues with digital eye strain (also called computer vision syndrome).

The symptoms of digital eye strain include: headaches, eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eyes, blurred vision, red eyes, and eye twitching. These symptoms usually worsen the longer you spend in front of a screen.

Though the simple solution seems to be limiting screen time altogether, this might not be a feasible option for those who use computers in the work place. The good news is that there are some tips to reduce the risk of eye strain and make your screen time more comfortable.

Take breaks.

The American Optometric Association suggests the 20/20/20 rule: For every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20 second break by looking at an object 20 feet away. This allows your eyes to relax, rest, and refocus. Remember to blink!

Adjust lighting to avoid glare or use an anti-glare filter over your screen.

Position your screen so that you don’t get glare from outside light sources, including the windows or overhead light. You can also place an anti-glare screen filter over your computer monitor to reduce the light reflected from your screen.

Adjust the display settings on your electronic device.

Change your display settings to make prolonged screen-viewing more comfortable. You can adjust your screen’s brightness and contrast levels to reduce the intensity of light being emitted. You can also increase the text size to make reading easier.

Adjust the position of your screen.

Recent studies show that children who use handheld electronic devices too close to their eyes may develop more nearsightedness as it reduces their ability to focus on objects farther away. Thus, children should be reminded to hold their devices farther away to help relax their eyes. For adults, making sure the computer screen is at least an arm’s length away can also help to minimize eye strain.

Blink more often.

It may be difficult to consciously remember to blink, but blinking frequently is very important to spreading tears over the eyes and keeping them moist. To help you remember, you can blink slowly a few times after every 20 minutes of screen use. Do blinking exercises and make it a habit when you’re at the computer. This will help to rewet your eyes and prevent dryness or irritation.

Use artificial tears.

If you still have symptoms of dry eye -- which include burning, irritation, or grittiness -- try using over-the-counter artificial tears. These are similar to your natural tears, which contain all the ions and nutrients that the eyes crave. You can’t overdo these drops, especially the preservative-free kind. There are many brands available on the market, such as Refresh, Blink Tears, and Systane. Talk to your optometrist about the one that is right for you.

Improve the air quality of your work space.

Dry or polluted environments can contribute to dry eyes and eye strain. You can make some simple changes at your work station by using a humidifier, repositioning your seat so air doesn’t blow directly at your face, or adjusting the heating/cooling system.

Get a comprehensive eye exam.

Your optometrist can help to modify your glasses prescription to create customized computer glasses depending on your preferred working distance from your screen. Also talk to your eye doctor about recommendations for anti-reflective lens coatings or tints. Your optometrist can also determine if you have a binocular vision deficiency that is inducing eye strain. In which case, vision therapy or special prism glasses may help to make your eyes more comfortable. Get a comprehensive eye exam and discuss with your doctor regarding your eye symptoms and health.