April 27, 2021
Whew! It’s been an unusual past year. Many of you have already been working from home or maybe are adjusting to a new hybrid work approach. Others have school virtually and are now spending more time on screens. What most people can say is that they are on screens more hours in a day than before the pandemic. Even though we are able to keep up with work and school this way, it doesn’t mean that it won’t take a toll on our eyes.
Our eyes were made for looking at objects far away with short times of focusing close. As technology came into being, this has totally flipped what our eyes are doing each day. Most of us spend a greater share of our day focusing on something close and less time looking at distance. This causes our eyes to have to work harder to focus for long periods of time. When viewing a screen, we have to focus differently than if we were reading an actual page of a book. Letters aren’t as sharply defined, contrast is different and often there are glare and reflections on a screen that wouldn’t be on a book. Studies indicate that anywhere from 50-90 percent of people experience computer vision syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome is a combination of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet or cell phone use. Common symptoms are eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms are caused by the prolonged period of time that we are sitting, (often with poor posture), glare on the screen, sitting too close to the screen or even poor lighting in the room. If there is a small prescription that is not corrected, it can compound these issues.
Often, just getting up and taking a break can help with these symptoms, but as I’ve been hearing, that is not as possible as it used to be in the workplace. Instead of walking to a conference room and taking a break from the screen before the meeting, a click of the mouse brings you to your next zoom meeting. Instead of walking to your next class, a click of the mouse brings you to your next virtual class. Small breaks, even as short as 20 seconds, can make a tremendous impact on your comfort. We often recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. (There are apps for this also!!) This gives a short break to your eyes, allows your eyes to relax as they look far away and you can blink! Studies show that we blink 2/3 less on a screen than anything that we do away from the screen. This causes our eyes to dry out, become irritated, itchy, red, and can blur our vision.
Since screens aren’t going anywhere, especially in the time we are in, how can you make yourself more comfortable? Well, having a proper workstation can help. We know that not everyone has the luxury of having this at their home, but if you can have a chair that you can sit back and have your legs at a 90-degree angle to the floor, and have the top of your screen at eye level, this will be the most comfortable sitting position.
Lighting can make a difference in the comfort of the eyes also. Make sure there is no glare from windows and position the screen so that it avoids glare from overhead lighting. Anti-glare screens can help decrease the amount of light reflected from the screen.
Getting a comprehensive eye exam from Verona Vision Care can help understand if there is a specific prescription that would be best for you to view the computer with. Since our eyes are working harder at all ages to view the screen, often a low amount of reading power can help to relax the eyes under prolonged stress.
Blue light filters on glasses can also be helpful. Although research is being done to try to understand how much damage is being done to our eyes from the blue light emitted from screens, we do know that it can disrupt sleep patterns and cause our eyes to be more uncomfortable. Depending on your needs, there are many different options with blue light glasses. One option has a light champagne-colored tint that can mimic what our natural eye does to absorb the blue light, other options have various filters, colored tints or coatings to decrease the amount of blue light that reaches the eyes. Anti-reflective coating is also a large part of making the eyes more comfortable on a screen. This helps to decrease glare and allow the light to pass through the lens instead of bouncing off the surface causing even more glare.
If you haven’t already experienced computer vision syndrome, unfortunately, it might be in your future. By taking breaks, having the proper posture, and having the correct prescription with blue light filters, you can greatly decrease symptoms from using the computer and potential long-term consequences.