Study Says Devices Cause Eye Strain—10 Tips to Help

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on February 2, 2014 • views: 995

Type ComputerA report released on January 9, 2014, by the Vision Council states that nearly 70 percent of adults experience eye strain when working on digital devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones.

This is one of those “duh” studies that’s just reaffirming what most of us already knew. If you’re a writer, or if you use your computer at work for more than a couple hours a day, you’ve experienced the dryness, the irritation, and most likely, even the headaches.

The news may be helpful, though, for those who haven’t thought too much about how all these gadgets may be affecting eye health in the long term. What’s concerning is that the Vision Council went on to say that overexposure to the type of light emitted by most of these devices could increase risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

What can you do to protect your eyes?

Hours at the Computer Causes Eye Strain

As a freelance and fiction writer, I regularly spend from 8-12 hours a day on the computer, and that’s not counting my cell phone or iPad devices. I’ve always felt the strain of it on my eyes. I keep a bottle of eye drops on my desk, and try to regularly look out my window at the vast expanse of wheat fields behind my house.

After this report, I’m thinking again about all that time logged in and what it could be doing to my vision. Here are some more findings from the Vision Council:

  • Eye strain can be exacerbated in adults who wear prescription eyewear. (Glasses? Contacts? You could be even more at risk.) Lenses that are designed to bring near or far objects into focus are not built for the mid-distance range of a computer.
  • The television counts as one of the devices that can cause eye strain.
  • The percentage of adults like me who spend 10 or more hours a day in front of screens rose four percent last year.
  • Eye doctors are noting a steady rise in the number of patients with screen-related eye strain.

What is Eye Strain?

If you’re not sure just what constitutes eye strain, here’s how the Council describes it:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Red eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck and back pain

Will the Technology Improve?

The other good thing about a study like this is that it brings the problem to the media, which can then encourage companies to make changes. We’ve already seen enhancements to screens pop up over the last few years, and we’re likely to see more in the future. Already the optical industry is looking into ways to not only enhance what we see, but to make it easier on our eyes to see it.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Eyes

While we wait for the technology to catch up, we need to take care of our eyes now. We all rely on them heavily every day, and as writers, our eyes are critical to our livelihood.

The media recommended the so-called “20-20-20” rule—every twenty minutes, take a twenty-second break and look at something 20 feet away. This allows the eyes to relax for a spell, which can improve your vision and delay eye fatigue.

There are a number of other things you can do to protect your eyes while you work. Keep these in mind next time you’re slaving away.

  1. Make it bigger: Enlarge text, pictures, and other information to make it easier to read.
  2. Blink: We naturally blink less when we’re looking at a screen. Blinking is necessary to keep eyes moist and relaxed. Less blinking causes excess evaporation and dry eyes.
  3. Don’t squint: Squinting leads to dry eyes, according to a study from Ohio State University, yet many of us squint when reading screens to try to see more clearly. When we squint, we also blink less—nearly half as often.
  4. Push your monitor away: Many of us either have our computer (or other device) too close to our eyes, or we have them positioned correctly, but over time lean in (to read or examine images) until we are closer than we should be for good eye health. Close reading makes your eyes work harder, and can result in strain, fatigue, and aches and pains. Optical experts recommend you position the monitor 16 to 30 inches away from your face. Here’s a test—sit up straight and extend your arm to your computer. Your palm should rest comfortably on your computer with your arm straight.
  5. Elevate your chair: in addition to having the computer monitor far enough away, it’s also best if you’re looking down at it, rather than up. It’s a more comfortable position for your eyes. You can tilt the screen up slightly to see clearly.
  6. Position your lights: Sometimes you have no choice about the lights. I used to work in an office with fluorescent lights overhead. (Ugh. Headaches most every day.) If you can, place lamps perpendicular to the machine, so they’re not shining in your eyes or on the screen.
  7. Print it out: This is one of my favorite coping techniques. If I have to read or edit more than a page, I will print it out and do it on good old paper. It always feels more relaxing to my eyes and my neck and head muscles.
  8. Take breaks: This one is important for a number of health reasons, but can be especially good for your eyes. At least once every hour, get up and walk around for at least five minutes. If you can look out the window or take a short jaunt outside, even better.
  9. Ask for glare-reducing eye wear: If you wear glasses or contacts, ask your eye doctor for lenses that are made for the eye-to-computer viewing range. You can also ask for an antireflective coating to reduce glare. You can also get a glare-reduction filter for your computer screen.
  10. Do your important work in the morning: This can be helpful for a lot of reasons, but it can help protect your eyes as well. Get most of your work done early in the day and you can take more breaks in the afternoon and evening, when your eyes are tired.

Do you suffer from eye strain? Have any helpful suggestions?

Sources
“Squinting Computer Users Blink Less,” Live Science, November 29, 2005, http://www.livescience.com/3933-squinting-computer-users-blink.html.

“Digiteyezed: The Daily Impact of Digital Screens on the Eye Health of Americans,” The Vision Council,” http://www.thevisioncouncil.org:80/consumers//media/ResearchReports/des2014/TVCDigitEYEzedReport2013.pdf.
Picture courtesy Almonroth via Wikipedia Commons.

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