Digital eye strain is very common today, and you probably experience it at some times during your week. As you are reading this your eyes are crossed. That’s right, cross-eyed. On top of that, the focusing muscles inside your eyes are hard at work keeping things in focus. You also may not be blinking at a normal rate so your tears may be evaporating more, which can cause dry and red eyes. Now imagine doing that for eight, ten, twelve hours a day.
Like it or not, our modern lifestyle practically requires the use of screens at close distances with our computers and phones. Looking at something at these close distances requires coordinated action between the eyes converging (essentially being cross-eyed) and accommodation (your eye muscles and your lens keeping things in focus). It’s like a yoga pose that you must keep steady. In yoga, when you’re overworked you get tired, sweat, and it’s hard to maintain your pose. With excessive screen time and near work, we can get eye-aches, headaches, and it’s hard to maintain focus. What can we do about this? How do you relax your eyes and give them a break? Following are some tips to prevent digital eye strain.
Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
To relax your eyes from excessive near focus requires you to get out of the cross-eyed stance. This can be done by looking at far away distances. This straightens out the eyes and relaxes your focusing muscles. A good rule of thumb is the “20-20-20 rule”. Every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds (and the more the better). Stand up, walk around, look outside a window.
Use Properly Fit Eyewear
Get a thorough eye exam. Even while giving your eyes a break, some people have a harder time focusing at near distances because of they way their eyes refract light entering their eyes. People who are farsighted for example need to work harder to keep things in focus and other people may have weaker focusing muscles. Working your way through blurry close up vision will only make digital eye strain worse. Special lenses to reduce strain and bothersome glare can help even those who think they have “good” vision.
Try Rewetting Drops
Remember to blink and don’t be afraid to use rewetting drops. Studies have shown that intense focus especially at near distances can reduce our natural blinking rate. Blinking is what keeps our eyes moisturized. It may sound weird but, yes, remember to blink. Environments both indoor and outdoor can get very dry, especially during the winter. Blinking may not be sufficient. Over the counter rewetting drops can help. Use drops as you would lip balm or moisturizing skin lotion, reapplying as needed.
These tips should help you prevent digital eye strain. I hope you find them useful. Next month we’ll dive deeper into dry eyes, causes, and what you can do about it. Please do set up an eye appointment if you haven’t had one in a while. You can make an appointment on our optometry page.