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How to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

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As our lives today revolve around digital screens, we can be more prone to discomfort caused by digital eye strain. Whether it’s from working on a computer, scrolling through social media on our smartphones, or binge-watching our favorite shows on streaming platforms, digital screens can affect many of us. 

Digital eye strain can cause symptoms such as blurry vision, eye fatigue, and dry eyes. However, with a few preventive measures and lifestyle changes, you can maintain your vision health and prevent digital eye strain.

The strategies and habits recommended for preventing digital eye strain include the following:

  • Adjust your display settings for comfort
  • Use proper lighting in your workspace
  • Take regular breaks from screen use
  • Blink frequently
  • Adjust your screen’s position
  • Use artificial tears for dry eye symptoms
  • Wear computer glasses
  • Get regular eye exams

What Is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain—or computer vision syndrome—is a condition that can cause your eyes to become tired or irritated from intense focus, such as staring at digital screens for long periods of time. 

Symptoms of digital eye strain can include:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Redness
  • Dry eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Neck, shoulder, or back pain

What Causes Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain is associated with the prolonged use of digital screens. While the debate on the exact cause of digital eye strain continues, there are several recognized factors that can contribute to its development, including:

  • Focusing on a task that forces your eyes to work harder for a long time.
  • Eye strain from refractive errors like myopia
  • Improper screen position, height, and distance leading to poor posture and neck and shoulder pain.
  • A tendency to blink less than usual when using digital screens, which can cause dry eyes and discomfort. 
  • Viewing digital screens too far or too close to your eyes.
  • Insufficient or harsh lighting that can cause glare or reflections on screens, leading to fatigue and discomfort. 
A woman wearing blue light glasses to protect her eyes while working in front of a computer screen.

Tips for Preventing Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain can affect adults and children. You may be at a higher risk if you work in front of a computer as part of your job or spend a considerable amount of time on digital devices. The good news is that you can prevent digital eye strain with some simple adjustments and mindful habits.

Adjust Your Display Settings

Your screen settings can play a crucial role in preventing digital eye strain. Here’s what you can do:

  • Avoid using screens that are too bright or too dim. Adjust your screen’s brightness to match your surroundings. 
  • Opt for a comfortable contrast level that allows you to read text without straining your eyes.
  • Increase your device’s text size to avoid squinting and leaning closer to the screen.
  • Many devices offer built-in blue light filters or night mode settings. You can activate these to reduce harsh light exposure, especially in the evening.

Use Proper Lighting

Ensuring you use proper lighting in your workspace can be essential for preventing eye strain. Consider the following:

  • Position your screen so that natural light does not create a glare on the screen. Indirect natural light is ideal.
  • Dim the lights when you’re watching TV to reduce eyestrain. 
  • Consider installing anti-glare protectors on your screen or purchasing lenses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating if you wear glasses. 

Take Regular Breaks

The 20-20-20 rule can be a simple and effective way to prevent digital eye strain. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. Shifting your focus helps relax your eye muscles and can reduce strain.

Blink Frequently

Many people tend to blink less, or not blink completely, when engaged in activities that require intense focus, such as working at a computer screen. Try to consciously remind yourself to blink more often when using digital devices. Healthy blinking helps moisten your eyes and prevent dryness.

Adjust Your Screen’s Position

Proper ergonomics can make a significant difference in preventing neck and shoulder pain associated with digital eye strain. To adjust your screen, try the following tips:

  • Position your screen at or below eye level to avoid straining your neck.
  • Maintain a comfortable viewing distance, typically an arm’s length from your eyes.
  • Tilt your screen slightly backward to reduce glare and reflections.

Use Artificial Tears

Dry eyes are a common symptom of digital eye strain. If you experience dry eyes, consider using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to maintain your eyes’ moisture levels. Before using eye drops, it is important to speak with your eye doctor. We can recommend drops that support your personal eye health and specific lifestyle needs.

Wear Computer Glasses

When you visit us for an eye exam, we can recommend computer lenses that may help filter light emitted by screens and prevent digital eye strain. 

Get Regular Eye Exams

Don’t forget your regular comprehensive eye exams, as they can help us detect any underlying eye conditions, prescribe corrective lenses if needed, and suggest personalized recommendations for preventing chronic symptoms from issues like digital eye strain and dry eyes. 

Safeguard Your Vision

Protecting your eyes from digital eye strain is crucial for maintaining your vision comfort and long-term eye health. With adjustments to your digital screen usage, you can reduce your chances of experiencing eye strain. 

If you do experience digital eye strain symptoms, book an appointment with Higgins Brothers’ Vision Care in Plainville. We can help identify the underlying causes of your discomfort and provide personalized strategies to help you get relief. 

Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Written by Dr. Donald J. Higgins

Dr. Donald J. Higgins is the founder and Medical Director of the Dry Eye Treatment Center of Connecticut, a clinic specializing in diagnosing and treating dry eye disease. This clinic features Tear Lab, Oculus with Crystal Dry Eye Report, Equinox LLLT, Lipiflow, and Lumenis OptiLight treatments.

Dr. Higgins decided to become an eye doctor his junior year in high school and has never looked back. In his undergraduate studies, Dr. Higgins received the Trustees Prize in Science, the highest award presented to a science student. He graduated from Boston College in 1978 and began attending the New England College of Optometry. After graduating in 1982, he returned to his hometown of Plainville and has been in private practice ever since.

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