Protecting your eyes from too much digital screen strain
How many hours a day do you spend staring at the computer, TV, cell phone, and tablet screens? It can be harmful to your eyes, doctors warn.
Between 50 to 90 percent of computer users experience symptoms related to computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, a very common and treatable condition.
CVS can occur from extended use of any device with a digital screen. Symptoms include dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain. CVS is caused by any combination of the following factors: uncorrected refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism), poor lighting, screen glare, and poor workstation setup for posture and viewing.
“The good news is that there’s currently no scientific evidence that CVS permanently damages the eyes; however, some experts believe daily computer use may be a contributing factor to the rise in dry eye disease,” says Steven Rhee, D.O., corneal specialist at Hawaiian Eye Center. “Dry eyes can lead to more serious eye conditions and even vision loss if not properly treated.”
To protect yourself from CVS, the first step is to correct any refractive errors by visiting your eye care professional. It’s estimated around eleven million Americans ages 12 and older suffer from easily treatable refractive errors, according to the National Eye Institute. Having the proper glasses, contacts or surgery to correct these issues will decrease any added strain on your eyes.
Dr. Rhee's advice includes properly arranging your work station: position the monitor 20 to 28 inches away from your eyes; adjust the chair to support upright sitting that allows you to view the screen’s center just below eye level at a 15 to 20 degree downward angle; change the screen contrast and brightness to level comparable to surrounding light; and use screen covers, lower lighting, and curtains or blinds to reduce glare.
Lastly, he says to follow these simple tips: take regular breaks and blink frequently to rehydrate your eyes; every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds (20/20/20 rule); and try over-the-counter lubricating eye drops.
“If CVS symptoms become chronic, speak with your eye care professional to see if special computer glasses are needed or treatment for dry eyes is recommended,” Dr. Rhee advises.