Do you ever find yourself struggling to see the screen in front of you? Or needing to look away from your work on a computer to refocus your eyes? You’re not alone. Approximately 32.4% of Americans report experiencing digital eye strain.

Screens play a large role in not only our work lives, but also our personal lives. From smartphones to TV to using computers and tablets at school and work, it’s not surprising to see why your eyes might begin to feel strained. Eye fatigue affects people who spend hours in front of a screen and the impact is even greater for those with keratoconus.

Continue reading to understand how small lifestyle changes can help relieve eye strain and to find out what treatment options you may consider if you’re dealing with these symptoms.

Why Are My Eyes Tired?

According to the American Optometric Association, digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. This issue is not limited to adults either. Research shows that besides playing outside, the most popular activities children are engaged in include using a digital device (23.1%) and watching TV (20.1%).

While eye strain is the most common complaint associated with this condition, other symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and even neck and shoulder pain. Understanding the causes and effects of eye strain can help keep many of the associated symptoms at bay.

Naturally we blink approximately 15 times a minute, but when we use digital devices that number drops to only 5-7. Blinking acts as a natural lubricant which is why when you are not blinking as frequently, it intensifies dry and irritated eyes. While nearly anyone who spends a significant amount of time on digital devices can be affected by digital eye strain, it can be especially bothersome to those who wear contact lenses and already experience dry eyes.

How Do I Know If I Have Digital Eye Strain?

While living with digital eye strain is frustrating, it is fortunately easy to diagnose with a comprehensive eye exam. Looking at patient history, visual acuity measurements, refraction, and testing how the eyes focus, move and work together, your optometrist can determine if you have digital eye strain and advise you on treatment options.

What Are the Risks of Prolonged Exposure?

Digital eye strain is unfortunately not the only condition that can arise from prolonged exposure to digital devices. The display screens of computers, electronic notebooks, smartphones and other digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light. Close to 80% of adults report using digital screens in the hour before going to sleep, with almost 55% using them in the first hour they are awake. Studies suggest that continued exposure to blue light could lead to damaged retinal cells. This can cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration or cataracts.

Unlike UV rays where less than one percent of UV radiation from the sun reaches the retina, virtually all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. While it’s important to remember your sunglasses on sunny days, it may also be worthwhile to use a pair of blue-light blocking lenses during screen time to help prevent some of the potential damage and symptoms.

What Are My Treatment Options for Digital Eye Strain?

Treatment options are not always the same for everyone. Talking with your optometrist and considering some simple lifestyle changes will help you to identify what treatment options will give you optimal eye strain relief.

  • Computer eye strain glasses are a common way to relieve digital eye strain symptoms. Eyewear is available with lenses featuring magnification, plus anti-reflective and blue light-filtering capabilities, as well as select contact lenses, to help reduce the symptoms of digital eye strain.
  • The 20/20/20 Rule is regularly recommended to anyone working or using digital screens. Every 20 minutes look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Look up from your computer screen regularly. Look out the window or at some object 20 feet away for a full 20 seconds.
  • Adjusting your monitor is a simple fix that can make a big impact. Your screen should be slightly lower than eye level and centered between 15 and 20 degrees below horizontal eye level. Don’t forget that a monitor’s brightness should match the surrounding workspace brightness.
  • Remember that font matters! Increasing the font size on your screen can help prevent straining your eyes to see or read text.
  • If you’re still struggling with dry eyes, some experts advise installing a humidifier in an office or room where extended time is spent on the computer. Keeping lubricated eye drops on hand is also helpful to keep your eyes comfortable.

Regular eye examinations and proper viewing habits can go a long way to help to prevent and reduce the development of digital eye strain. Be sure to speak with your eye care provider about any new symptoms you experience.

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