One of the main causes of eye strain is staring at a digital device for too long. This can lead to "accommodative spasm" in the eye muscles, which can be relieved by taking breaks. A good rule of thumb to follow is the "20-20-20 rule" - for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away. This will give your eye muscles a rest and prevent cramping.
The position of your screen can also play a big role in eye strain. For desktop computers and laptops, it's best to have the screen at arm's length. The height of the screen should also be adjusted so that your eyes are not quite at the very top of the screen, but not directly in the middle. If you're watching a movie or playing a video game, having the screen at eye level in the middle of the screen is more comfortable. To reduce glare, make sure that windows and indoor light sources are not reflecting on your screen.
You can also adjust the settings on your device to make it easier on your eyes. One way to do this is to increase the font size if it's too small and you find yourself squinting. On a Windows 10 computer, you can press the control button and use the plus or minus buttons to control the font size. On a phone, go to settings and adjust the font accordingly. Another way to adjust the settings is to change the brightness level of your screen. On Windows 10, you can right-click on the home screen, go to display settings, and use the slide bar to adjust the brightness and color. There's also a night mode or blue light setting on Windows 10, Android, and Apple, which reduces the amount of blue wavelength light coming from your device, which can affect your melatonin production and sleep cycle and may contribute to eye strain.
When using digital devices, it's common for many of us to blink less often or less fully. This happens because we are highly focused on the computer screen, phone or book, which results in a decrease in our blink rate or quality of our blinking. Typically, our blink rate is around 20 times per minute during a conversation, but it can drop to as low as 4.5 times per minute while using digital devices. To alleviate these symptoms, it's important to be mindful of blinking and make a conscious effort to blink more frequently. Additionally, you can use lubricating eye drops and warm compresses to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye.
While we typically recommend taking breaks and engaging in outdoor activities to alleviate eye strain, certain eye exercises can also be beneficial. One such exercise is called cupping, where you warm your hands and gently place them over your eyes, creating a dark environment for your eyes to rest in. It is important to not put too much pressure on your eyes and to relax your shoulder and neck muscles while performing this exercise. This technique can serve as a form of relaxation for your eyes, providing relief from the bright lights of digital screens.
Objective: Encourage full and complete blinking
Objective: Strengthen eyelid muscles
Objective: Improve blinking technique
In some cases exercises and changes in your setup and habits are all you need to reduce the symptoms, however that may not always fix the underlying cause of your symptoms. There are many possible causes for eye strain, for example dry eye disease and eye misalignment are two very common causes for eye strain and will require additional treatment. We always recommend visiting our optometrist to assess the underlying cause of your symptoms so that you can get the relief that you need.
According to a survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA), a majority of Americans, nearly 2 out of every 3, report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain. Additionally, the survey found that a significant number of children, specifically 80% of those aged 10-17, report experiencing symptoms digital eye strain (computer vison syndrome).
At Amplify EyeCare, we understand the impact that digital eye strain can have on your vision and daily life. If you are experiencing symptoms such as headaches, blurry vision, or dry eyes, it is important to schedule an eye exam to determine the underlying cause and develop a personalized treatment plan. Our team of experienced optometrists are dedicated to providing the highest quality care and have the latest technology and techniques to address digital eye strain.