Information and communications technology make our daily lives easier both at home and for work. Unfortunately, to tap into these resources, we are dependent upon staring at screens for a majority of our day. Focusing our gaze at one distance for these prolonged periods of time strains our eyes.
You know what a headache eye strain can be literally. Your eyes are dry and tired, your head hurts, and the screen starts to look blurry. All of us are looking for an answer to the question, “How can I reduce eye strain?” Of course, we need an answer that doesn't involve getting rid of computers, mobile devices, and books.
Tips for Eliminating Eye Strain
The good news is you can take easy steps to reduce the amount of strain you put on your eyes. Mostly, you need to pay attention to your habits while at the computer. Once you develop a regular eye health routine, it is easy to keep up with. First, you’ll want to make sure that you set yourself up to prevent vision problems before they begin, and this means creating a good ergonomic environment for using your computer.
Setting Up an Ergonomic Environment for Your Eyes
- A Good Chair - Sitting up straight provides two major benefits. One, it prevents you from developing back and neck pain while slouched forward to look at the screen. Second, it ensures that you keep your eyes the proper distance from your computer monitor.
- The Right Distance - Depending upon what kind of device you’re using, the appropriate distance from your face to the screen can vary. In general, a desktop or laptop computer should be an arm-length in front of you when you’re sitting up straight. Why is distance so important? It ensures that your eyes can focus optimally on the pixelated text and images in front of you.
- The Right Monitor - Wondering what to get yourself for your next birthday? If you’re still sitting in front of a clunky old monitor, opt for a newer model. It’s not only sleeker and consumes less space; it’s also better for your vision health. Sleek, high-resolution flat panels create a sharper image, meaning your eyes don’t have to work so hard to focus.
- Keep Your Mouse at a Comfortable Distance - You should be able to comfortably reach your mouse while sitting up straight. If you’re hunched forward in order to reach your mouse, you risk sore shoulders and neck, and your eyes will be too close to the screen. That makes them work harder to focus. Here’s a tip: Use an adjustable keyboard tray if your desktop is too high or low.
- Check Your Lights - If you have overhead lights near your computer, they can cause glare on your screen. Aside from being annoying, glare makes it difficult for you to read text. To reduce glare, use bulbs that emit about the same level of light as your screen and position your computer away from windows, if possible. Floor lamps typically cause less glare than overhead lights.
- Consider Changing Display Options - Your computer comes with display settings for a reason - so you can adjust them to your comfort and liking. If your eyes constantly feel fatigued, you can adjust the brightness. Your screen should not be so bright that it looks like a source of light but not so dim that it is difficult to read. Also, font sizes and contrast can be changed.
To see some of this advice in more detail, watch this helpful video.
Keeping Your Eyes Moist
The first sign of eye strain most people notice is dry eyes. Once your eyes get dry, it becomes quite uncomfortable to continue working at your screen. Sometimes, however, you don’t have a choice like when your job involves computer work. For those times, you need a good plan for keeping your eyes moist.
- Blinking - Studies have actually shown that people blink less when looking at a computer screen than they do when reading a printed text. In fact, most of us also blink less than when we watch TV! Because people blink so seldom when doing computer work, eye strain and dry eyes become more likely. Make a conscious effort to blink regularly.
- 20-20-20-20 - If you can remember this one number, you can take care of your vision. First, keep your screen at least 20 inches away from your face. Then, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to look at an object at least 20 feet away from you.
- Eye Drops - Let me tell you the secret to using eye drops. Do it before your eyes get dry. Once they’re dry and sore, it’s a losing battle trying to rehydrate them. Instead, plan ahead to put in some drops before your eyes typically start to burn.
- Drink Water - In order to moisturize various systems, like eyes, skin, and mouth, your body needs to have enough water to send to those areas. Drinking water throughout the day can help lessen the effects of dried out eyes.
Special Considerations for Reducing Your Eye Strain
Now you know the basics for taking it easy on those overworked optical organs. The best place to get accurate information is from your optometrist, especially when you have other vision issues to take into account. In fact, for those of you who wear glasses or contacts, you may want to consider these additional suggestions for dealing with digital eye strain:
- Get an Eye Exam to Check Your Prescription - During an eye exam, you can discuss options with your doctor. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can provide best practices for you that take your other vision problems into account. They can even suggest better types of contact lenses or glasses for working with electronic devices.
- Consider Computer Glasses - One option for people who wear glasses to do computer work is special computer glasses. They have coated lenses designed to reduce glare and help you focus better on screens. As with all glasses, they work best when kept clean. Although non-prescription varieties are available, these are really a benefit over traditional glasses or coatings rather than over no glasses at all. For those not accustomed to wearing glasses, you may find that non-prescription computer glasses actually increase your strain as you deal with smudges and frames in your line of sight.
Keep up to date on information about eye health in the digital age. For now, our dependence on screens only seems to be growing. Be prepared by starting a vision health routine now.
What have you tried to reduce eye strain? Did it work? Post your comments below and share with others.