Keeping Your Eyes Safe in a Digital Age
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is the temporary discomfort that follows from two or more hours of digital device use. A variety of consumer electronics can cause digital eye strain, including televisions, desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and gaming systems.
Symptoms of digital eye strain include red, dry or irritated eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, back, neck and shoulder pain, and headaches.
What Causes Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is not caused by one isolated event or behavior. Irritation and discomfort can be the result of many issues - from the way devices are made to how we use them, even to how we hold and view them. Eye strain can also be exacerbated in adults who wear prescription eyewear. Corrective lenses are often times not intended for the mid-distance range of computers and other electronics.
To understand the consequences of digital eye strain, The Vision Council surveyed nearly 10,000 adults across the country about their digital media use and corresponding experiences of digital eye strain. Among the findings:
Respondents regularly use digital media devices:
- Television (83%)
- Desktop computer (67%)
- Laptop computer (65%)
- Smartphone (45%)
- Video game system (30%)
- Tablet or e-reader (26%)
On a typical day, respondents use digital media devices:
- 3 hours or less (20%)
- 4-6 hours (33%)
- 7-9 hours (22%)
- 10-12 hours (14%)
- More than 12 hours (10%)
Respondents' main reason for using digital technology is:
- Recreation (45%)
- Work or business (24%)
- Socializing (18%)
- Research (10%)
- School (3%)
Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain
- Eye redness or irritation is usually the result of staring at the bright backlight of screens for a long period of time.
- Dry eyes can result from reduced blinking rates. Screens set at eye level can also cause dryness.
- Blurred vision is often due to screen glare. The chance of glare rises with bright overhead lights, older computer monitors, dirty screens, and outside sun.
- General fatigue can occur from staring at screens and straining to see small fonts and images.
- Back pain can occur because of poor body posture when a screen is not positioned properly.
- Neck pain is usually caused by poor screen and monitor positioning. Painful pressure can build on muscles if the neck is constantly moving up or down.
- Headaches can be caused by repeated eye strain.
Solutions for Digital Eye Strain
To prevent and alleviate digital eye strain, consider the following:
- Consult with your eye care provider about the best solutions for your eyes and lifestyle
- Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away
- Consider using computer eyewear to help combat eye strain; products are available in prescription and non-prescription varieties
- Create an ergonomically-friendly work station with proper lighting, seat adjustments, and monitor settings
- Maintain an appropriate distance from handheld and stationary device screens
- Enlarge your computer text and browser windows for easier viewing
- Limit the amount of competing indoor and outdoor light
- Clean electronic device screens frequently to eliminate dust and glare
- Remember to blink; staring at screens can dry eyes