The Millennial DilemmA: What You Should Know About Digital Eye Strain

Lt. Col. (R) Dr. Shahzad Saeed

2 min read

effects of digital eyestrain

The ocular (eye) fatigue, dry eyes, and blurred vision that has been plaguing e-users worldwide now has a name: Computer Vision Syndrome, better known as Digital Eye Strain. With 50-90% of all computer users developing digital eye strain, it is the single most common computer-related condition. According to research, only 2 hours of continuous screen exposure is enough to produce the effects of digital eyestrain in most cases. Let’s discuss what digital eyestrain is in detail below.

Computer and digital device use

Extended use of computers and other digital devices is one of the most common causes of eyestrain. The American Optometric Association calls this computer vision syndrome, or digital eyestrain. People who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day have the greatest risk of this condition.

Computer use strains eyes more than reading print material because people tend to:

  • Blink less while using computers (blinking is key to moistening the eyes)
  • View digital screens at less than ideal distances or angles
  • Use devices that have glare or reflection
  • Use devices with poor contrast between the text and the background

In some cases, an underlying eye problem, such as eye muscle imbalance or uncorrected vision, can cause or worsen digital eyestrain.

Some other factors that can make the condition worse include:

  • Glare on your screen
  • Poor posture
  • Setup of your computer workstation
  • Circulating air, such as from air conditioning or a nearby fan

How It Happens

Computer vision syndrome is usually caused by prolonged, repetitive eye movements along a screen. When reading off paper, the eyes move back and forth and continuously refocus to help the brain process visual data delivered by the eyes into images. However, with screens, contrast, flicker, and glare add strain to the already overworked eyes, which is why prolonged screen time leads to vision problems.

Symptoms

Along with physical and ocular fatigue, some of the most common symptoms of digital eye strain are:

  • Tearing
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Eye irritation
  • Itching or burning eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Double and/or blurred vision

How It Affects Your Performance

The effects of digital eyestrain can be very obvious. Most people may ignore minor visual disturbances due to their pressing work schedules, when in fact, computer vision syndrome can reduce daily productivity by 20%. This is because instead of optimizing their regular work hours, most people work in small time-chunks, leading to overtime work, prolonged screen exposure, and eye strain. Moreover, avid screen users also face an increased risk of early presbyopia, a drastic reduction in close-range vision that usually affects individuals over 40.

Diagnosis

Your eye doctor will ask you questions about factors that might be causing your symptoms. He or she will perform an eye exam, including testing your vision.

How to Fight It

Stay Distant: Sit an arm’s length away when using a computer and keep hand-held devices just below eye-level to reduce stress on the eye muscles and cornea, as these muscles must flex harder when viewing something up-close as opposed to objects further away. Also, avoid neck pain by positioning reference materials in a way to avoid moving your head back and forth between them and the screen.

20-20-20 Rule: Make it a habit to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of screen usage to avoid eye fatigue. You can also try alternating between looking at something far away and something up-close for 10-15 seconds each at least 10 times to avoid ‘accommodative spasms’ (inability to change focus) after prolonged screen usage.

Anti-Glare: Since light reflections from walls and finished surfaces on the computer screen can cause eye strain, avoid tilting your screens upward and placing them directly below overhead lighting, keep them clean, install screen glare filters, and opt for AR (anti-reflective) coated lenses for prescription eyewear.

Reduce the Blue: Reduce eye strain, avoid retinal damage, and minimize the risk of age-related macular degeneration by adjusting your screen display’s color temperature from blue to warm orange in dark or low-light conditions.

Computer Eyewear: Specialized computer glasses with amber lenses reduce eye strain and make prolonged screen exposure easier by filtering high frequency blue light emitted from screens, reducing glare, and increasing contrast. However, they can alter screen colours, making them unsuitable for practitioners of the digital arts. Moreover, contact lens wearers can opt for either moisture-sealing, photochromic, or lightly-tinted lenses according to their condition.

Adjust Brightness: Reduce overhead and surrounding lighting, and change your devices’ background colours from bright white to cool gray.

Blink: When concentrating on digital devices, your blink rate is radically reduced. Retain moisture and avoid ocular dryness, itchiness, and/or burning by blinking frequently.

If you observe any of the effects of digital eyestrain or sudden changes in vision, consult your doctor immediately. You can also book an appointment with a top ophthalmologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT doctor for your ocular concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Lt. Col. (R) Dr. Shahzad Saeed - Author Dr. Shahzad Saeed is a leading eye specialist and surgeon who offers his services in Lahore. You can reach him out for comprehensive eye care, glaucoma surgery, eyelid lift, correction of eye bags, and a lot more.