As the world becomes more digital, an increase in screen usage is unavoidable. Most adults spend an average of 11 hours on their screens every day for both work and leisure purposes. Of these 11 hours, only around 2.8 hours are used for watching TV, and the rest of this screen time goes to computers and phones. Children and teenagers are also undeniably spending more time on their phones and computers than ever before.
Though digital technology has made life so much easier, it does come with its consequences. The surge in digital consumption has increased physical health problems related to vision. One of the most highly reported health problems from consumers of digital technology is computer vision syndrome. The good news is, if a person makes small ergonomic changes to their workspace and takes care of their eyesight, they can significantly reduce the negative effects of this syndrome.
How Much Harm do Digital Screens Cause?
It’s no secret that excessive screen time results in less time spent outdoors and causes more strain on the eyes. This leads to significant health issues at both mental and physical levels.
Spending more time on devices can decrease a person’s self-esteem and overall happiness. Increased screen time may result in higher levels of anxiety and depression. While on a physical level, excessive exposure to screens may cause poor posture, excessive weight gain, and eye problems such as computer vision syndrome.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
Computer vision syndrome is also known as digital eye strain and visual fatigue. When individuals spend long hours on their devices, they are continuously exposed to the unnatural glare of blue light. To make matters worse, many people sit in poorly lit rooms and do not take enough breaks while working behind their screen. This puts a lot of strain on their eyesight and causes them to suffer from eye, neck, and vision problems.
Why is Blue Light Bad for Eyesight?
Blue light may be more dangerous than other light sources because it contains more energy per photon of light. When blue light radiates from an LED source (like in most screens) it becomes even more concentrated. Though there is no evidence to suggest that blue light can cause serious eye damage, excessive exposure to blue light may cause individuals to suffer from sleep problems, and visual eye strain alongside other ocular problems.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
If a person experiences any of the following symptoms, they may be suffering from computer vision syndrome:
- Dry eyes
- Pain in their neck and shoulders
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Irritation, tearing, or pain in their eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Itching of the eyes
The severity of a person’s symptoms will vary based on how long they were using their device and if they have any prior underlying eye conditions.
Often, computer vision syndrome is nothing serious and the symptoms halt shortly after a person stops using their device. However, if the above symptoms are persistent, they should reach out to their doctor to receive a proper checkup to make sure there is no serious underlying issue.
Testing for Computer Vision Syndrome
Though anyone who uses a digital screen has the potential of experiencing this syndrome, computer vision syndrome is more prevalent in individuals who use more than one device at a time. It is also slightly more prevalent in females.
An eye doctor will conduct a series of tests to determine if a person is suffering from computer vision syndrome, or if there is an underlying issue causing them to experience these symptoms.
A complete eye examination will give the doctor the information they need to proceed with the relevant treatment. The doctor will examine the patient’s medical history to see if other medical conditions are contributing to their eye discomfort. They will then measure visual acuity to see how well the patient can see and also check to see if they suffer from any other visual conditions such as astigmatism, near-sightedness, or far-sightedness. Once they understand the source of the problem, they will move on to treatment.
Computer Vision Syndrome Treatment
To treat the symptoms of computer vision syndrome, people should refrain from using their devices excessively. However, if a person has suffered significant visual fatigue, their eyesight acuity may reduce and they may require professional medical treatment.
An eye doctor will assess the exact symptoms a person is experiencing and then use the right method to fix the issue. A variety of different methods can be used, including:
- Treatment of dry eye through lubricating eye drops
- Correcting refractive error
- Management of eye anomalies through visual therapy
- Prescription of blue light filtering glasses
- Prescription of general glasses
Eye and vision problems are a highly sensitive matter, and they vary significantly from person to person. Affected individuals should ensure they seek the help of a medical practitioner to get a professional assessment of their symptoms.
Treating Computer Vision Syndrome with Eyedrops and Computer Vision Syndrome Glasses
Lubricating eye drops can help reverse the dryness caused by computer vision syndrome. An eye doctor can prescribe the right eye drops or one can simply purchase general eye drops over the counter. Before purchasing general eyedrops, individuals should ensure they are not allergic to any of the ingredients they contain.
Computer vision syndrome glasses are also available. These glasses have a special tint and anti-reflective coating on them that filter out the unwanted light from screens and help a person’s eye muscles work with less strain. These also have photochromatic lenses to shield a person’s eyes from high-energy blue light. There are single vision glasses, occupational progressive glasses, and occupational bifocal glasses available. It is recommended that these glasses should be worn whenever people use digital devices to keep their eyes protected.
Is Computer Vision Syndrome Reversible?
The temporary eyestrain a person experiences while using their screen is reversible. Usually, just taking a break from the device or using eyedrops is more than enough for the symptoms to go away on their own.
However, when a person suffers from excessive computer vision syndrome, they risk worse eyesight damage and special treatment through an eye specialist may be required to fix this. Though looking at a computer or phone screen for long periods can cause some harm to the eyes, it is important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that a person can grow blind or even suffer serious visual defects through excessive exposure to digital screens.
What are the Best Monitor Settings for Decreasing Visual Strain?
When using a monitor, the right adjustments to the brightness of the screen can minimize eyestrain. The best way to do this is to alter the brightness so that it matches the lighting of the room a person is in. A great trick to ensure a person is using the right brightness is to put a piece of white paper on the screen and adjust the brightness until it matches the same color as the paper.
Less strain is also placed on the eyes when there is a significant contrast between the background color and text, for instance, black text on a white background. A person should make sure their monitor settings enable them to read text with these settings, so they don’t tire out their eye muscles.
The blue light emitted from a screen can also be minimized by decreasing the color temperature setting or, in some monitors, switching to a blue light suppression mode. People should also make sure they minimize flickering on their monitor to prevent eye fatigue.
What Can I Do to Protect my Eyes from Digital Eyestrain?
The best way to protect one’s eyes from digital eye strain is by taking preventative measures to protect eyesight during screen time. Here are seven important steps a person can take to prevent their eyes from overworking and to reduce the chances of suffering from computer vision syndrome.
1. Adjust Screen Position
What most people don’t realize is that there is an optimal way to place screens so there is minimal strain on the eyes and neck. A computer screen placed around 15 to 20 degrees below the eyes results in the most comfortable user experience.
A properly adjusted screen can help prevent problems with one’s posture as well. People should ensure they are working on level tables and sitting at an appropriate distance from their screens – around 25 inches away – with proper back support. These small adjustments can significantly reduce eye strain experienced while working on a computer or mobile screen.
2. Use a Document Holder
Computer users should also make sure they don’t place their reference documents where they constantly have to keep turning away from the screen. Reference documents situated beside the monitor, not under or above it, are in the best position. A document holder can be used to keep the reference materials beside the monitor to minimize head movements. When a person reduces the need to constantly turn away from their computer screen, they reduce the number of times their eyes must readjust, and they also put less strain on their neck.
3. Adjust Lighting
Screen glare and other lighting in the room can also take a serious toll on the eye muscles leading to visual fatigue. Individuals should make sure their screen brightness is not too high or too low, as both these settings may cause a person to strain harder. They should also make sure they are not sitting directly under a light source or have external light pointed directly at their face or screen while they work.
If the glare of the screen still seems too strong, an anti-glare screen filter can be used. These filters reduce the amount of light from the screen and since glare-free screens can reduce visual fatigue, one’s eyes do not have to work as hard. Special tinted glasses also work to filter out the excessive light.
4. Use Night Mode
More research needs to be conducted to prove how effective night mode is in reducing computer vision syndrome. However, night mode does reduce the overall screen brightness, and this can help diminish eyestrain. Night mode is best to use when a person is in a low light environment because the brightness of the screen should always match the brightness of one’s surroundings to minimize eyestrain.
5. Blink Frequently
When people are busy at work, they often do not realize they are blinking much less than they would if they were not facing the glare of a screen. It’s been shown that blinking reduces by 66% when a person is facing a screen, which can lead to dry eyes.
People should remember to blink regularly while working at their screens. Since this may not be easy to remember, setting up a timer or some sort of prompt that goes off every 4 seconds to remind a person to blink will be helpful. Regularly blinking while using a screen will ensure that a person’s eyes stay moist and healthy.
6. Reduce Usage, the 20-20-20 Rule
One of the best ways to reduce the negative effects of screen exposure is to reduce the total time spent staring at a screen. This measure can be difficult for some as there are people – such as writers and radiologists – who need to constantly work at a screen for their jobs.
People who fall into this category should make sure they take regular breaks. This gives their eyes some rest and keeps their eye muscles from getting pushed to the point of damage. After two hours of screen time, people should rest their eyes for at least 15 minutes by either closing them or engaging in other non-visually strenuous activities.
Optometrists often advise their patients to follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means that individuals should look at something 20 feet away after every 20 minutes for 20 seconds long to rest their eye muscles.
7. Get Regular Eye Checkups
Lastly, a person should take care of their eyes the same way they would take care of any other part of their body. Individuals should schedule regular eye checkups at least once a year to make sure no serious visual complications are left unattended. An annual trip to the eye doctor may seem unnecessary at the time, but this is a great practice to maintain as it can prevent unnoticed underlying eye complications from getting out of hand.
Prioritizing Your Health in an Increasingly Digital World
As dependency on technology grows, so will time spent in front of a screen. This increase in time spent exposed to devices may also result in increased health complications on both mental and physical levels.
Since computer vision syndrome is commonly experienced after excessive screen time, more integration of technology in everyday life means more individuals will likely suffer from its symptoms.
To protect one’s eyes and reduce the digital eyestrain caused by excessive screen time, people can make sure to adjust their work environment to minimize stress on their vision. Where possible, reducing time spent at a screen will help alleviate these symptoms as well. Regular annual visits to an eye doctor will help to quickly catch and treat vision issues before they worsen.
Computer vision syndrome is common, but it is also reversible. As long as a person takes the necessary steps to minimize the strain on their eyes, they can enjoy good vision while still benefiting from the ease technology brings to their life.