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Computer screens causing eye strain perhaps isn’t something you think about a lot, but once it affects you, it’s hard not to notice.
Protecting eyes from digital devices like computer screens and smartphones is more important than ever, but to effectively tackle the problem, it's beneficial to talk about prevention rather than treatment.
Simple preventative measures can help protect your eyes from computer screens and smartphones, and our team at Kraff Eye is going to take a look at a few of those measures in this article.
Can Screens Make Your Eyesight Worse?
Digital Eye Strain (DES), or computer vision syndrome, is more common today than ever before. Realistically, virtually everyone uses a screen in their daily life, and screen time is higher than ever before.
While not everyone spends every day looking at a computer monitor, most people do use smartphones at a minimum. Experts believe that DES occurs in around 50% of computer users.
So, do screens make your eyesight worse? Well, the good news is that eye strain isn't a long-term problem.
There's no evidence that strain makes your eyesight worse in the long run, but it can cause significant discomfort and often makes getting through a workday more difficult.
How a Computer Screen Affects Your Eyes
How exactly does the screen affect your eyes? There are several signs to look out for, and they vary slightly depending on whether you primarily use a computer or a smartphone. Let’s take a look at some of those complaints and explore how you can avoid them. The American Optometric Association recognizes the most common symptoms of eye strain as:
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- In extreme cases, neck and shoulder pain.
Why is this the case? When looking at a high-resolution screen, we subconsciously blink less. Other pain responses can decrease, causing the body to not signal that something is wrong. This is particularly common with computer use and is called “computer vision syndrome.” Over long periods of time, this can be harmful to your overall eye health. If you're working on a computer all day, these symptoms can arise after using a screen for prolonged periods.
How to Protect Your Eyes From Computer Screens
1. Use the 20/20/20 Rule
Your eyes aren’t designed to stare all day at something directly in front of you, especially a digital screen. With the 20/20/20 rule, you give your eyes a much-needed break during long and extended work days.
The rule is as follows; if you look at the screen for 20 minutes, you must look at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. However, the longer you look away from your screen, the better!
2. Ensure Your Room Is Well Lit
It may sound counterintuitive, but less light in your room is actually better for your eyes when you’re working on a computer. Offices shouldn’t be too bright, so when possible, close your curtains and reduce your use of fluorescent lighting.
Aim to use lower voltage bulbs and make sure your ambient lighting is about half as bright as the average office.
3. Have Regular Eye Exams
Regular eye exams with an experienced eye doctor help to keep your eye health in check and ensure any problems you might be having aren’t anything other than normal eye strain. It also provides you with an excellent opportunity to talk to an expert about your habits and eye health!
4. Reduce Glare
Glare on your computer screen can cause eye strain as it stops your eyes from adjusting as easily as they should to the content you’re trying to focus on.
To combat this, use an anti-glare matte screen where possible (rather than glass-covered LCDs). If you wear glasses, make sure your lenses have an anti-reflective coating that will benefit you in front of a computer.
5. Use High-Resolution Screens
Most people don’t have to use CRT screens anymore. Those are the old computer screens with low refresh rates that created a noticeable flicker that often made the eyes feel uncomfortable.
Today, screens typically offer refresh rates of 75Hz or more. The higher, the better. In addition, screens with higher resolutions appear more lifelike. When you can’t see the pixels, your eyes don’t work as hard to make sense of the images in front of you.
6. Reduce Blue Light
Blue light has a short wavelength and is known for causing damage to the eye. Use blue light glasses when in front of a computer to protect against harmful blue light. This is ideal for long-term screen usage.
How Does a Mobile Screen Affect Your Eyes?
Just like computers, mobile phone screens can present an occasion for eye strain. The fact we use our phones in place of pen and paper for virtually everything we do means it’s something we should talk about. How do phones affect your eyes?
In reality, eye strain from phone use is much the same as computer eye strain symptoms. Mobile phone eye strain may cause the following symptoms:
- Dry eyes
- Painful throbbing headaches around the eye region
- Blurred vision
However, we often use our phones differently from our computers. With computer usage, it's possible to spend several hours looking at the screen. Most people use smartphones for shorter periods of time throughout the day but can accumulate many hours of usage by the end of the day.
Although this is less stressful for the eyes, if you’re straining when you look at your cell phone screen, it can mean you're placing stress on your eyes resulting in mobile phone eye strain. Over time, this can negatively affect your eye health.
Let’s take a look at how to protect your eyes from the harm of smartphones and other digital devices.
How to Protect Your Eyes from Phone Screens
1. Adjust Screen Settings
It’s easy to forget that your screen can be customized because it looks fine straight out of the box! Everyone’s eyes are different, however, and all smartphones allow you to change the contrast, brightness, and text settings to reduce digital eye strain.
Lower the screen brightness when you’re in your home, or turn on automatic brightness settings to let your phone adjust depending on your environment. As a bonus, you can increase text size to make reading text messages easier, too!
2. Keep a Sensible Distance
You should be able to see everything on your phone screen from between 16 and 18 inches away. Don’t hold your phone too close, but if you find yourself bringing the phone closer, consider zooming in on your screen instead.
3. Use Night Mode
Modern Android and Apple smartphones offer night mode features that make it easy to automatically reduce strain on your eyes at night. Turn the feature on, and your phone will automatically adjust screen settings depending on the time of day. This is an easy way to protect your eyes without even thinking about it.
4. Don’t Forget to Blink!
This might sound silly, but it’s easy to forget to blink when we’re using smartphones and tablets. Subconsciously, we become so focused on the content that we simply stare at the device in front of us.
Every time we blink, we’re keeping our eyes moist and refocusing our eyes. Blink often to avoid strain and dryness.
5. Use Anti-Reflective Screen Protectors
Smartphone screens are glossy, but matte screen protectors give you that old-screen LCD finish. They protect your screen and they reduce glare from ambient lights or sunshine. They’re inexpensive, too!
6. Use Artificial Tears
For all types of eyestrain, be it caused by computers or mobile devices, artificial tears can be an effective tool in keeping the eyes comfortably lubricated. There are many types of lubricating eye drops on the market — both with and without preservatives — that can be purchased over the counter. You may need to try several before you find the one you like best.
Tips to Limit Your Computer and Cellphone Use
Here are some tips to cut back on screen time to benefit your eye health:
- Don't watch films or television on your mobile device.
- Avoid having multiple social media accounts.
- Avoid using devices in social settings.
- Eat without using your phone or computer.
- Set boundaries in your home for when and where digital devices are permitted.
- Limit the time you spend on certain apps or your phone in general.
Important Advice for Protecting Your Eyes
We've covered a lot on digital eye strain, so here are some key takeaways. Adjusting the brightness on your phone is important, and your phone may even do it for you automatically. The ambient light sensor on your device allows the light to shift depending on how much light is already available. As we mentioned, the night mode feature reduces the impact blue light has on your eyes.
The warmer the screen color, the better. Long wavelengths are better for you, so it’s important to reduce the amount of blue light you see.
Still, struggling? Don’t fret. At the Kraff Eye Institute in Chicago, we have some of the country’s leading eye specialists who can diagnose any concerns, offer excellent treatment plans and care, and help make sure your eye health is the best it can be. Don't wait for symptoms to worsen; schedule your appointment today and take the first step toward optimal eye health.