Time spent looking at computer and phone screens is closely associated with dry eye.
As we increasingly live in a world dominated by digital screens, the relationship between screen usage and dry eye syndrome has become more evident. Roughly 50% of individuals who consistently engage with computers or smartphones experience some level of dry eye. This is a common occurrence especially in the United States, where many individuals work long hours on digital devices.
The simple answer is that when we engage with screens, we unconsciously decrease our blinking frequency or don't blink fully. This interferes with our eyes' natural lubrication mechanism, leading to dry eye syndrome, a condition often dealt with by our eye care professional.
Symptoms of eye strain associated with screen use extend beyond dry eyes. They also include blurry vision, headaches, and in more severe cases, neck and shoulder pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please schedule an eye exam with your optometrist.
Dry eye from screen use is most prevalent among individuals who spend extended periods in front of screens for work. Fortunately, no evidence currently suggests that eye strain from screen use has long-term negative impacts on your eyesight. But the discomfort can be unpleasant and interfere with your daily productivity.
At Amplify EyeCare, we recommend prevention over treatment. The symptoms usually subside if preventive measures are put into practice.
Fortunately, there are simple measures that we have discussed below that you can take to effectively avoid this problem.
We aren’t meant to be staring all day at something right in front of us. The 20/20/20 rule is a good way to give our eyes important breaks over the course of the work day.
The way it works is simple. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. This is just a minimum, however; looking away from the screen for more time is even better for your eyes.
These breaks where you use longer distance vision help keep the eyes from getting overly strained.
While it might not be obvious, you want to have less light in the room while working on a computer. It should not be dark, but also not too bright. You can achieve this by using less fluorescent lighting, closing curtains, and using lower voltage bulbs. The average office is usually too bright, and the overstimulation can increase the likelihood of eye strain and dry eye.
Glare on your screens can lead to eye strain since it prevents your eyes from adjusting as easily as they should to whatever you are trying to focus on.
To reduce glare, use an anti-glare matte screen when possible, as opposed to glass-covered LCDs. If you wear glasses as you work, make sure they have an anti-reflective coating.
Fortunately, computer screens today are better than the old CRT screens which had low refresh rates and created noticeable flickers. Most modern screens have refresh rates of 75Hz or higher. More is better. Screens with higher resolutions look more lifelike, and when you cannot see the pixels, your eyes won’t have to work as hard to make sense of what you’re seeing.
Getting regular eye exams will help you make sure that your eyes are healthy, and that any issues you might have do not become something major. Additionally, seeing our eye doctor gives you a chance to talk to them and seek advice regarding eye health.
Our computer screens are usually arm length away from our eyes. Our glasses however are not optimized for this viewing distance. Regular glasses are optimized for near and far vision. By using our eyes to look at a distance that is not optimized by our glasses, we can cause added eye focusing and eye movement demands on the visual system. Computer glasses are specially designed to optimize your vision for the right viewing distance to reduce strain when looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time.
One significant strategy that our optometrist recommends is practicing blinking. Due to the nature of computer and cell phone usage, we tend to blink less fully. Dr. Portello, Christina A. Chu, O.D, M.S., and Mark Rosenfield, Ph.D., found that computer usage resulted in 75% more incomplete blinks than reading from a printed document.
Exercise 1: Spend one minute actively blinking, doing fifty full blinks in that one minute period. Look in each direction (up, down, left, right, straight) and blink ten times in each direction (5×10). When doing this exercise, make sure that your blinks are complete by placing your finger sideways under your eye above your cheekbone, pointing towards your nose. When you blink fully you should feel a gentle brush of your upper eyelashes on your finger.
Close your eyes normally, pause for 2 seconds, then open them. Next, close the eyes normally once again, pause for 2 seconds, and then forcefully close them
Hold the lids together tightly for two seconds, then open both eyes. Repeat for 1 minute.
A firm squeeze is used to ensure that the muscles responsible for closing the eyelids are being used.
Put your fingers at the corners of your eyes and blink. During correct blinking, you should not feel any movement under your fingers.
When you feel anything, you are using your defense muscles on the side of your head. Practice blinking with the goal of using your blinking muscles that are above your eyelids.
If you're experiencing persistent dry eye syndrome or eye strain, don't hesitate to reach out to your eye doctor.
Dry eye from screen use is increasingly common as we all spend more and more time looking at computer or smartphone screens. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to minimize the risk of dry eye, and ensure that if you need to use screens regularly, you can do so in comfort. If you have questions regarding dry eye or wish to schedule a dry eye exam, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.