How to Limit Eye Strain amid ‘Increased Screen Time’ in a Digital World

Tricia Borchers, PA-C

By Tricia Borchers, PA-C

Eye strain affects people of all ages. Reading, writing or watching TV for extended periods of time may contribute to this problem, although digital devices have emerged as a primary culprit.

This has been even more evident throughout the past year as many of us have increased our “screen time” during the COVID-19 pandemic. These longer sessions of using your cell phone, iPad or laptop have played a role in eye strain symptoms.

Perhaps your vision blurs or your eyes become watery. Maybe, your eyes feel achy, tired or dry. Dry eyes cause a stinging sensation or tearing. You may have headaches and can over time notice neck, shoulder or upper back pain.

Eye strain may also affect your ability to concentrate.

So, how can you reduce your eye strain and avoid the annoying symptoms?

  • Look Away – The first is looking away from the screen. When on your computer the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggest the 20-20-20 rule. Taking eye breaks every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
  • Blinking – Try to make a conscious effort to blink more often. We automatically blink less when working on a computer or using any digital screen. Blinking less causes the eyes to become drier.
  • Add Artificial Tears – When you feel that your eyes are dry, don’t wait. Purchase over the counter artificial tears to use as needed. Also, circulating air by your face, such as from an air conditioner or nearby fan can cause your eyes to become dry.
  • Adjust Your Computer – It’s recommended to have your computer screen match the brightness of the light around you so your eyes do not have to work as hard. Also, glare from your screen can cause problems. In addition, devices that have poor contrast between the text and the background can be problematic. If you are able to adjust these or have anti-glare on your glasses this can be helpful. You also might need prescription computer glasses. This is something an optometrist can evaluate for you.
  • Adjust yourself – The viewing of the screen at a certain angle or distance can be an issue causing poor posture. It is recommended to be sitting about 25 inches from the screen. This is right about arm’s length. Also, having your screen so your eyes can gaze slightly downward and not up or straight ahead.

Eye strain can be irritating, but usually is not serious or permanent. The key to alleviating, or avoiding symptoms is eye rest.

Hopefully, by implementing the above actions you can help prevent the unwanted effects of dealing with eye strain in general.