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Keeping Your Eyes Safe in a Digital World

“Hello, this is Dr. Alan Schulssel coming to you live from Midtown Manhattan, and it’s beautiful outside…”

How common is Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)?

In a survey by The Vision Council, digital eye strain symptoms affect over 67% of adults who regularly use digital devices. Unfortunately, due to ignorance or indifference, many of them do nothing to relieve their discomfort. More common than carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis, this eye condition is now considered to be the most prevalent computer related repetitive stress injury.

What are the symptoms of Digital Eye Strain?

  • Blurred vision during computer use or while viewing your digital device
  • Eye irritation
  • Red eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck and/or back muscle strain

What causes Digital Eye Strain?

Time: Staring at anything for a long time can cause eye strain, and people use computers and handheld digital devices for hours a day. Spending 2+ hours per day in front of a screen, whether for work, school or leisure, increases the risk of digital eye strain. In today's day and age, almost everyone seems to do that. Many of my patients, especially those who work in the New York City area, like analysts, computer operators, IT people, accountants and so many others spend up to 6 to 8 hours on their computer every day.

Pixels: To make matters worse, the nature of digital screens contributes to eye strain. Compared to letters printed with ink on paper, it is much more difficult for our eyes to read characters formed by pixels – literally, picture elements – on a computer screen. Digital text tends to have less uniform density and sharply defined borders than the printed word, and that is even true for high definition display.

Distance: Holding your phone too close to your face worsens eye strain. The recommended viewing distance is about an arm’s length away.

Blinking frequency: While concentrating on your digital device, you probably don’t even realize that you’re not blinking as often as you need to. Lack of blinking is a common cause of dry eye, which we see all the time in our Practice.

Eye muscle fatigue: When we read, our eyes track the text, but it’s harder for the eyes to stay focused on an image on a screen than to read printed text. The eyes' focusing muscles can become fatigued, and this can lead to digital eye strain.

What can be done to reduce CVS or Digital Eye Strain?

The 20-20-20 Rule: While using your computer or handheld electronic device, we advise you to take a rest every 20 minutes, and look at something about 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. This gives your eye muscles a moment to relax, and helps prevent fatigue. It also stimulates blinking to decrease dry eye symptoms. Getting up to stretch at this time is an even better way to revitalize your body and eyes during your break.

Blink: Every time you finish a page view, reward your eyes with a full blink.

Adjustments: Magnify font size and adjust the contrast or brightness settings for increased comfort. Where possible, a higher resolution screen is better.

Viewing Distance: Your computer screen or smartphone should be at least 10-12 inches from your eyes.

Visit your eye doctor: Part of taking care of your eyes includes a routine eye exam. Even if you are not yet experiencing Digital Eye Strain symptoms, it is always a good idea to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam every year, especially if you spend several hours a day using a digital device. Uncorrected vision problems or eye conditions can increase the risk of developing digital eye strain, so as your optometrist, we would want to address those. We can also assess your eyes for dry eye and offer solutions to help keep your eyes comfortable and moist.

Computer glasses: There is eyewear available that is tinted or coated to reduce exposure to blue light which may be harmful to your eyes, as well as glare from screens that can increase eye strain. You may not know that we can prescribe "computer lenses" which are specially made for digital viewing, and they can be incorporated with multifocal lenses too.

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