Regardless of the cause, digital eye strain (DES) is a very real phenomenon that’s been reported by 31% of adults and over twice as many millennials. The condition is also called “computer vision syndrome,” and it’s not fun.
Understand the Causes of DES
There isn’t one reason why your eyes may start to feel dry and itchy after staring at your computer all day. There isn’t one easy-to-pinpoint reason why your eyesight gets blurry after scrolling through social media on your tablet all evening. The truth is, there are multiple reasons why your device usage is impacting your vision and eye comfort.
Once a proper eye exam rules out problems like glaucoma, myopia, and astigmatism, you must address vision-impacting issues in your workspace. Are you sitting too close to the screen? Experts advise being at least an arm’s length away.
You may need to view text in a larger font or adjust the height of your desk, chair, or computer screen. What’s the angle at which you view your device? Aim for a downward angle from your eyes to your device, usually an angle of about 15 or 20 degrees. Sit up straight, making sure you aren’t having to slouch or stretch to see your monitor.
Stock Up on Items to Reduce DES
Special glasses definitely help, but you may need to invest in some other helpful items to reduce the likelihood or impact of DES. Since excessive glare is one cause of computer vision syndrome, reduce the glare in your environment with room-blocking curtains.
If a lamp is the source of glare, purchase a darker lampshade or move the lamp to a spot where it doesn’t beam onto your screen. Purchase monitor- and device-friendly wipes to keep screens free of smudges and debris.
Next time you’re at the pharmacy, grab some gel-filled eye masks you put in the fridge for a cooling eye refresher. Ask your optometrist to recommend eye drops that help keep your eyes moist. If you have allergies, take steps to reduce pollen in your environment, and remember to take your antihistamine as prescribed.
Wear Your Computer Glasses
You can purchase specialty computer glasses or have your eye doctor create a custom pair of glasses for you. These glasses have features such as anti-glare lenses and lenses that filter out the blue light emitted by devices.
Many computer glasses are tinted yellow. This helps increase the contrast between letters and backgrounds on device screens. There are also progressive lenses available that let you go from looking at a computer to reading a book or viewing something in the distance easily.
But the glasses won’t work if you don’t wear them. If possible, leave one pair of computer glasses at home and one pair at work so you always have some at hand.
Compromise to Save Your Eyes
Set limits on yourself when using your PC or devices. Go beyond the 20-20-20 rule, which is the advice to take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Give your eyes routine breaks from devices altogether.
Get out in nature without your phone, or go for a walk without your tablet, and let your eyes take in all of the world around you. By letting your eyes enjoy periodic vacations from the little screens in your life, you exercise your eye muscles. They grow stronger when you look at clouds, skyscrapers, and faraway mountains.
Remember to blink when looking at your devices too. Because of the way people read text on computers, they tend to blink their eyes far less often. This is one of the reasons your eyes may dry out and grow itchy after looking at your phone or laptop for a long time. By blinking, you refresh your eyes with natural lubricant.
In most cases, DES resolves itself once you take a rest period away from screens. Computer glasses often help when you must stare at a device for long periods. If your problem is due to another underlying eye problem, specialty treatment or glasses for that problem may resolve the DES too.
Vision therapy is sometimes prescribed for people who have difficulty with focus and depth perception. A simple pair of glasses is not enough to fix these problems or problems related to weakness or degeneration of eye muscles.