Protecting your eyes during screen-time
We spend a lot of time using screens for work, study and fun. And thanks to COVID-19, you might be doing it even more than usual. Teachers Health optometrist Jane Chong (from our Richmond Health Centre) explains how to look after your eyes while using tech.
What is digital eye strain?
As its name suggests, digital eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) is discomfort from using a digital device (e.g. computer, phone, tablet) for an extended time. Symptoms can vary slightly from person to person but may include:
- An uncomfortable, strained sensation around the eyes
- Headache, typically around the temples or forehead
- Blurry vision that may be constant or change with blinking
- Dry eyes, which can also be felt as stinging, burning, or general irritation.
Why does it happen?
Digital eye strain is caused by stress on our visual system from prolonged near focus. Some people may be more prone to eye strain, while others may only feel the effects after a few hours or longer.
Other factors that may contribute to discomfort are:
- Your posture at your workstation, on the couch, or in bed
- Glare off your screen (e.g. overhead lighting or natural light from outside)
- A dry environment or air conditioning/heating blowing into your face
- Uncorrected vision problems, such as needing prescription glasses.
What you can do
The good news is that there are things you can do to combat digital eye strain. Here are some recommendations:
- Take frequent breaks from your screen. Allow your eyes to relax and gaze at a point in the distance to give your focusing system a much-needed break. Try following the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, look at something 20 feet away.
- Adjust the lighting around your screen. If you’re affected by reflections and glare from your screen, try angling your device, closing the curtains, or redirecting the lamp, to reduce glare.
- Treat dry eye symptoms. Although dry eye is a complex condition that’s best managed with your optometrist, for now you can relieve it at home:
- Make sure your air con or heater isn’t blowing in your face
- Use an over-the-counter artificial tear lubricant for dry eyes. If you have sensitive eyes you may want to choose a preservative-free eyedrop
- Don’t stare at your screen for too long without blinking.
- Consider reading glasses. While it’s difficult to get an eye test right now, many pharmacists stock ready-made, over the counter reading glasses. These “readers” may help until you can see an optometrist.
Readers don’t cause permanent damage to your eyes or vision, even if the script isn’t quite right. Although some people may get a slight headache if the script is way off.
Test the readers at the shop by using them to look at your phone (at the distance you’d normally use your screen). The higher the prescription number, the closer you’ll need to hold your screen.