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The sudden proliferation of computers and smart devices in our lives has completely changed how we use our eyes - and probably not for the better. Within just a single generation, everyone now seems to spend huge amounts of time staring at computer screens for work or staring at their smartphones or televisions for entertainment and distractions.
Unfortunately, researchers are increasingly coming to believe that this is simply bad for our eyes. After all, we didn't evolve to stare at bright screens, just a foot or two from our face, all day long. We spend more time using our close-up vision than ever before, plus we're taking in more high-intensity blue light than ever before as well.
If you feel like all your daily screen time might be affecting your eyesight, you're definitely not imagining things. It's becoming a big problem for millions of people. In this article, we want to discuss in-depth how screens may affect our vision, and what we can do to protect ourselves even as our day-to-day lives require their constant use.
Among researchers, the term Digital Eye Strain (DES) is coming to be used more and more often. It means exactly what it sounds like – eye strain coming specifically from the overuse of digital screens, such as computers and smartphones.
Research has shown that up to 50% of people may suffer from DES in their daily lives, and many may not even realize it. Currently, it's unknown whether excessive screen use can actually damage the eyes, or speed up eyesight loss, but the short-term pain and suffering from constant eyestrain is still a burden by itself.
Some of the most common symptoms of DES include:
In some cases, these are also linked to neck and shoulder pain – although that may be due to bad posture as much as eye problems. People tend to slouch over when using a computer, which is bad for the back. Of course, the combination of both factors will make the situation worse.
There are a few things that experts suggest you do, to reduce the strain on your eyes when working on computers all day.
As mentioned above, our eyes just weren't 'built' to stare at screens all day. So, one of the best ways to reduce eye strain is to give your eyes a break!
The 20/20/20 rule says that for every 20 minutes you look at a computer screen, you should spend at least 20 seconds focusing on an object at least 20 feet away. This ensures your distance vision gets used from time to time, and greatly reduces the strain on your close-up vision.
Even staring out the window from time to time really can help with your eye strain problems.
Your eyes have to work harder in low-light situations - so if they're already straining to read a computer screen, doing so in dim light or darkness just adds to their troubles.
That said, you shouldn't overcorrect in the other direction either. A room that is too bright will overwhelm your eyes. When working on a computer screen, the optimal room lighting is just a bit dimmer than you might normally use. You want the room bright enough to see, but not too bright. Switching to lower-voltage bulbs can help achieve the best balance, particularly if you're working from home.
Glare bouncing off your computer screen confuses your eyes and makes it difficult for them to focus properly on the screen image. Again, anything that makes things more difficult for your eyes is just going to make eye-strain problems worse.
If at all possible, have an anti-glare coating or filter on your screen. Also, if you already have glasses, anti-reflective coating on your glasses will further reduce glare.
Another common source of eye strain when using computer monitors is when the screen either has too low of a resolution, or the refresh rate (the number of frames shown per second) is too low.
For the least eye strain, you want to be using a screen with a resolution of at least 1080p, or even 2K+, and with a refresh rate of at least 75Hz (75fps). And the higher the refresh rate, the better. 144Hz monitors are more expensive but can significantly reduce eye strain.
Even if you already wear reading glasses, you should visit your optometrist at least once a year for a check-up. This ensures your prescription is up-to-date and provides the best possible vision correction. The combination of too much screen time, with out-of-date glasses, can be a real headache - literally!
Smartphones can also cause significant eye strain, but for slightly different reasons. Computer monitors are typically set up 2+ feet away from your face, which is when your distance vision kicks in. However, smartphones are typically held very close to the face, often a foot away or less. This relies entirely on your close-up vision.
Here are a few tips for reducing eye strain from your smartphone…
Don't forget that you can adjust the brightness on your phone at any time. You should keep it dimmer when you're indoors, so it doesn't flood your eyes with unnecessary extra light. (This will make your battery last a bit longer too!)
Also, nearly all modern phones have an automatic brightness function, that detects ambient light and changes the screen brightness to match. This is a very good feature for reducing eye strain. The same is true for 'night mode,' which lowers the brightness and reduces the amount of white light, after dark.
On the topic, also keep in mind that you can typically change the font size on your phone's display. If you have eye strain problems, try making the text bigger.
Yes, most of us end up using our smartphones just a few inches from our face - especially if we're looking at pictures or video - but that's really not a good habit. Trying to focus on a bright screen so closely adds a lot of additional strain to your eyes.
If at all possible, hold your phone more than a foot away from your face at all times - preferably around 16-18 inches.
When we're staring at screens, it's surprisingly easy to forget to blink. This is one of the big reasons we tend to get dry eyes after long periods of screen use. Because we're so focused on the image on the screen, it overrides our natural tendency to blink.
Simply looking away and closing your eyes for a few moments, allowing them to re-moisturize, can do a lot. Try doing this when you follow the 20/20/20 rule. Also, If dry eyes are a continuous problem, consider using eye drops. Bottles are cheap and easily available at any pharmacy.
Humans see within a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum, with red colors at the low/long end of the spectrum, and blue colors at the high/short end. Basically, blue light has more energy than red light, and an excess of blue light is linked to a variety of eye strain problems.
Now, light of all colors occurs naturally via sunlight, of course - but computer screens and smart devices tend to pump out a lot of extra blue light. This is more blue light than our eyes were built to deal with. Researchers increasingly believe this is one major contributing factor to DES and other screen-related vision problems.
Basically, the "warmer" (redder) your screen color grading is, the easier it will be on your eyes. Most computers and smart devices now include features that let you control the color temperature of the display. Changing it to be warmer and reducing the amount of blue light can help with all the above problems.
In addition, if you wear glasses - or need them - you can make your life a lot easier by picking up glasses with a blue light filter. Blue light reading glasses, for example, will make it easier to see your screens and they block out most of the extra blue light being emitted by the screen.
Keep all these tips in mind, and you should be able to go about your screen-filled daily life with a lot fewer headaches!
LOOK Optical Offers The Best In Blue Light Reading Glasses
We know that not everyone likes the idea of having to wear reading glasses, so we want to make it as fun and easy as possible! We carry a wide range of stylish, high-quality frames which look great, and will look great on you.
We also only use the best of materials, such as true glass lenses or glass quality material (not cheap plastic), and high-quality frames with Italian springs in the hinges. Add in blue light-filtering, and our blue light reading glasses are perfect for making your daily screen use as pleasant as possible.
Thinking about buying a pair? Just use our virtual mirror, and you'll be able to try out various frames before you buy. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 (877) 857-LOOK.