By: Kara Jillian Brown.
Looking at a computer screen all day forces sedentary behavior, strains your neck and shoulders, and—unsurprisingly—it’s incredibly hard on your eyes. Your computer screen is hurting your eyes because their ability to manage light diminishes over time, says VSP Network optometrist Jennifer Tsai, OD.
“When light from digital screens enters your eyes, they have to adjust and process the light so that it lands properly on our retina—an essential part of the eye that enables vision,” says Dr. Tsai. “This allows you to see the images clearly. However, when you spend too much time in front of digital screens, your eyes have to work harder to refocus the light. After an extended period of time, your eye muscles might feel fatigued from being overworked, a term known as digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome.”
The impact of digital eye strain is far-reaching. “It can cause eye fatigue, dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision, trouble reading, difficulty concentrating, light sensitivity, and neck and back pain,” says Dr. Tsai.
To avoid eye strain, you should take ample screen breaks during the day. “Many of us don’t even realize that we often stare at our phones when we take computer breaks,” she says. To do this, follow the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, remind yourself—and your children—to take your eyes off the screen and look at something that’s at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds,” she says.
Try to maintain digital distance and keep screen brightness down. “Find a comfortable working distance from your screen. Children should hold devices as far away from their eyes as is comfortable. Adults are encouraged to hold devices at arm’s length,” says Dr. Tsai. “Turn down the brightness level of device screens to reduce the amount of blue light exposure, especially during the evening hours.”
Additionally, you may consider getting blue light glasses. “Your eyes can become sensitive to harsh lighting environments, including excessive blue light from digital screens,” says Dr. Tsai. She recommends the VSP’s TechShield Blue AB lenses and the SunSync Elite Light-Reactive Lenses, “which offer blue light reduction both indoors and outdoors and change from dark to clear in seconds.” You can find blue light glasses from Warby Parker, Glasses USA, and Zenni, among other companies, too.
The best thing you can do, she says, is check in with an eye doctor to develop an eye health plan that works for you.
“Even if you don’t currently wear prescription glasses, an annual trip to the local eye doctor is critical for everyone,” says Dr. Tsai. “Not only can your doctor help you determine the best options to reduce digital eye strain, they’ll make sure your eyes are healthy and working properly. They can also help detect early signs of serious diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, autoimmune disorders, and hypertension.”
Jennifer Tsai, OD