Focusing too much of our attention on digital screens (whether they be desktops, laptops, smart phones, or tablets) is something we all seem to be guilty of these days. Sometimes we even go so far as to neglect our personal quality time – falling prey to habits like isolation and narrower points of view. Our jobs may require it and our personal lives might encourage it, but anyway you play it there are side effects from prolonged use of computers. Some physical conditions affecting us are weight gain and computer eye strain – luckily, both are things we can do something about.
What is Eyestrain?
There’s actually a medical term for this condition – and it’s called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). While it does impact almost all office workers, we can be thankful that it doesn’t cause permanent damage to our eyes. It’s always a gift when we are able to turn a negative into a positive, especially when it comes to our health.
Let’s explore just what eyestrain feels like…and examine 6 preventative actions to alleviate the chance of developing Computer Vision Syndrome.
Just the Facts…
According to the Mayo Clinic, several common causes of eyestrain include extended focusing on digital screens; continuous straining to read in bright or dimly lit settings; stress and fatigue; exposure to dry moving air from a fan or air-conditioner. Sounds a bit too familiar, doesn’t it?
Symptoms and signs of the syndrome could be headaches, sore neck and shoulders; sore, tired, burning or itching eyes; either watery or dry eyes; difficulty concentrating or having trouble keeping your eyes open.
So, what can we do to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves – especially when working at a computer all day isn’t an option?
- Just Blink
Working at a computer, we tend to blink fewer times than normal – and this can add to a dry eyes condition. Blinking refreshes and moisturizes your eyes. Make a concerted effort to blink every 20-30 seconds, and you’ll notice the difference. Maybe write the words on a post-it in front of you, until you form the habit.
- Posture Matters
The monitor should be directly in front of you, an appropriate distance for using whichever glasses you best read with. If you’re too far away from the screen, or your body is poorly positioned, your eyes will work harder to focus. Your forearms and thighs should be parallel with the floor. The torso, neck and head should be in-line, with your head slightly bent forward (yet in balance). Relax your shoulders. Feet should be flat on the floor or supported with a footrest, and your back and hips must be well supported.
- 20/20/20 Works
You should look away from the computer every 20 minutes to an object at least 20 feet, for 20 seconds or more. This relaxes the muscles inside your eyes, and prevents them from locking up (an accommodative spasm) after especially long periods of focused work. There are many stopwatch-type applications on the web. One made specifically for eye breaks is called EyeLeo – it’s free, easy to reset and allows you to set up both short and long breaks as well as their duration.
- Take a Break
Start by resting your elbows on the desk, palms up, and let your head fall gently forward. Stretch in your chair, or get up and walk outside for a few minutes; or take a bathroom break and splash some water on your face. It’s tough to remember to do this, especially when you are immersed in a project. At times it seems like hours can pass without leaving the computer. That’s the point. Force yourself.
- Eyewear Strength
Did you know that you should be using one set of glasses just for computer work, and another for reading up close? Most people will use their reading eyewear for deskwork, not realizing they are out of focus. If you wear readers purchased at the local pharmacy, determine the appropriate strength by standing back the same distance as you would sit from your monitor. Doctors advise that those at higher risk for eyestrain are people who wear contacts, as well as others who already suffer with astigmatism, farsightedness, and improper eye coordination.
- Adjust the Lighting
Glare is your enemy. This goes for not only the room lighting, but also your computer monitor. Balance the lights surrounding your work space to eliminate shadows, avoiding bright lamps which can create reflections. That said, a bright computer screen makes your pupils constrict – increasing your range of focus – so that’s a plus. When your eyes don’t have to do the adjusting, you can work longer and more comfortably.
For more information on what you can do for your specific working situation, set up an appointment with your optometrist to learn how you can combat CVS.
Shariq Toor is Content Strategist working with LASIK Surgery Specialists at Eyecare2020. He loves discovering the latest trends in Technology, Social Media, and Health. In his off time, he practices