Technology has invaded our lives. Almost everyone has a smartphone they have at all times. Computers are an integral part of personal and work life and are present everywhere.

While intense computer usage can’t permanently damage your eyesight, it can cause a lot of discomfort. More than 83% of the country uses technology that requires digital screens for more than two hours a day. 53.1% use two devices at the same time, and 60.5% of people suffer from digital eye strain. Irritated eyes can make it difficult to focus and see clearly, which in turn messes with your ability to work.

What Is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain is more than just having tired eyes. If your eyes hurt or feel irritated after more than 2 hours of relying on screens, you’re probably experiencing eye strain.

One of the reasons our eyes become more irritated when we use screens is because we don’t blink as often while using technology. Off of the computer, we blink every 5-6 seconds. But when we’re looking at screens, we blink every 10-15 seconds. 

If you’re experiencing eye strain, it’s not going to be from just one usage. Instead, it’ll come from a history of prolonged technology exposure. Since most people nowadays work a job that requires the use of a computer and then go home to play video games or watch Netflix, it’s no wonder that so many people are struggling with digital eye strain.

 

Here are other symptoms associated with this phenomenon.

woman holding her head
  • Back, neck, or shoulder pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry, irritated, or red eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches

This increased use of screens is having an impact on our health, both in the long and short term. Kids who have grown up using technology are more susceptible to short sightedness, which impacts them for the rest of their lives.

Carpal tunnel syndrome also commonly accompanies computer vision. Since most people who develop this are making repetitive movements as they work, these two work related injuries plague many office workers in the workforce today.

How Screens Work

desktop with two monitors

Most screens are made of two parts. A liquid crystal display, and a light source

There is a light diffuser placed between these two parts to make sure the light is distributed equally across the entire screen. 

Images on screens are made up of tiny pixels that form together to create an image. The crystal display filters the light depending on the color of each pixel. For black pixels, it blocks the light completely. For white pixels, it lets all of the light through.

Most screens nowadays use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to put a light behind the screen. This is more energy efficient and allows for thinner screens.

Our Eyes Weren’t Made To Look At Screens All Day

eyeglasses in front of monitor

When you’re looking at a screen, your eyes are constantly focusing and refocusing. The more you do this, the worse the strain is on your eyes. 

Unlike what happens when you read a book or a newspaper, you have to worry about other factors like contrast, flicker, and glare.

The biggest impact screens have on us is from the blue light most screens use to display their images. Blue light works differently from the soft, warm light that is in most of our lamps and other sources of lighting.

Sunlight is made of blue, green, orange, red, and yellow light rays. Together, these rays combine to create “white light” or sunlight.

All light is made of wavelengths and energy. Rays on the red end of the spectrum have longer wavelengths, which translate to less energy. Blue light, on the other hand, has shorter wavelengths and contains more energy.  Man-made sources of light include things like fluorescents and LEDs, as well as flat-screen monitors and TVs.

Just like exposure to too much ultraviolet (UV) light can damage your skin or eyes, too much exposure to blue light can have a negative impact on your health as well. If you spend too much time out in the sun, you’re likely to get sunburned. Over time, this can lead to skin cancer or sunburned eyes.

But in small amounts, UV light helps the body manufacture necessary amounts of vitamin D.

While our eyes can prevent UV rays from reaching the retina, they don’t work well at blocking blue light. In fact, almost all blue light you can see gets to your retinas.

Too much exposure to blue light can lead to age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss. While this isn’t an immediate threat, over time it can wear on your eyes and damage your ability to see.  

Increased Technology Use Means Increased Eye Strain

woman using laptop

When we’re using technology, most of the time we’re putting screens close to our faces. The closer an object is to your eyes, the more your eyes have to flex to focus on something so close.

Look at it this way. If you’re on the computer all day, you’re straining your muscles in the same way that you would if you were flexing your arm nonstop for 10 hours. Chances are, your arm will tire out in a matter of minutes. It simply isn’t made to do that.

Likewise, your eye muscles weren’t created to be used 24/7. However, the muscles in your eyes are very small compared to those in your arm. The wear on them is much greater than the wear on your arms. And also you need your eyes to see and navigate your way through the world. However, when your eyes are tired from being constantly flexed all day, your ability to focus on your surroundings safely is hampered. 

Focusing on anything for a long period will significantly wear on your eyes. Add to that the damage that blue light can do, and you have a surefire recipe for digital eye strain.

How To Reduce Eye Strain

The best way to prevent eye strain is to reduce the amount of digital media you consume. If you can cut down on your reliance on screens, your eyes will start to feel much better. However, that is asking a lot, especially since most of our lives have been catered around digital media consumption.

woman reading a book

If you work at a computer all day, try to take up hobbies that don’t require the use of a screen. Read physical books instead of using an e-reader. Listen to radio plays or audio books instead of watching a show. Take up knitting or sewing instead of playing video games. There are dozens of things you can do that don’t require using a screen.

If you aren’t able to reduce the amount of time you spend using technology, there are certain behaviors you can put into place to lower the number of stress screens put on your eyes. Changing how you use your devices is a great way to lower the impact technology has on your vision.

Keeping your screen clean and smudge free helps reduce glare, which can strain your eyes. You’ll also want to reduce overhead lights to prevent glare. Anything you can do to prevent putting any more strain on your eyes will help your eyes feel less burdened.

When using your smartphone, look at it a little below eye level. Make sure your device is a comfortable distance away from your eyes and isn’t too close to your face. Use larger font sizes to make it easier to read. Avoid squinting at all possible. If it’s too hard to read, enlarge the screen you’re viewing.

Pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. If your eyes start to feel irritated, look away for at least 60 seconds. You’ll also want to take regular breaks from being at your computer. Try to get up and walk around every hour or so. This will help your eyes reset, and will give your back, neck, and shoulders a nice stretch.

You can also rely on the 20-20-20 rule. The rule is that every 20 minutes, you need to take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away. This works because it takes 20 seconds for your eyes to completely relax.

20/20/20 RULE

EVERY

20

MINUTES

TAKE

20

SECONDS BREAK

LOOK SOMETHING

20

FEET AWAY

Since computers are placed a couple of feet away, they tend to fall in the intermediate zone of vision.  If you have some extra income, there are some computer eyewear solutions that are designed to reduce the amount of strain on your eyes. These glasses are designed to filter out blue light while putting a specific coating on it to make for glare and smudge free lens. 

You don’t have to put up with eye strain. Chronic eye strain can make it difficult for you to focus and get your work done. By changing some of your habits, you’ll be better able to pay attention to the task at hand.

 

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