You rub the top of your head in the hopes of alleviating your headache. You look back to the computer screen, bleary and red eyed, a dull pain radiating through them. This same scenario has played out countless time - a study by the Vision Council found that 70 percent of US adults reported having some sort of digital eye strain. Eye strain from computers can results in headaches, blurry vision, and computer vision syndrome (CVS). The good news is that there are a few tips you can take to alleviate computer eye strain - all it takes is a few changes and some mindfulness.
Bright sunlight and harsh interior lights can cause glare on your computer screen, causing you to squint your eyes and move your head at awkward angles. Block out the sunlight with some thick curtains and blinds. Also take a look at what’s going on inside - either use less light sources or lower intensity bulbs. Ideally you want a subtle yellowish ambient light when you are working. Make sure to position your computer screen away from your light source, with the light either to your side or behind you. If you find this impossible to do go ahead and invest into a computer hood.
Looking at a constant bright light can exasperate ocular discomfort. Get around this by adjusting the brightness to just around the same level as your workstation. If you are dealing with a lot of text work, trying increasing the text size and contrast. Smaller text with low contrast can blur together, forcing you to overcompensate. Color temperature is also important, as bluish light has been proven to increase eye strain. You can either manually convert your monitor to a more reddish hue, or install a light management program onto your computer. Programs such as f.lux change the lighting of the screen throughout the day, adapting to the location of the sun.
Regardless of how much you adjust the lighting of your computer and surrounding area, you are still going to want consistent breaks. If you are working, you probably can’t afford to be away from your computer for long periods of time, but you don’t have to if you follow the 20-20-20 rule. This rule states that every 20 minutes you should take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away. This allows your eyes to readjust and recover. You can use this rule in conjunction with constantly blinking. Between each breath you should be blinking at least once - after you have been doing it a while it should come as second nature.
Keep your screen at an arm’s distance - this can also force you to sit up straighter and avoid lower back strain. You want to be looking slightly down at the screen, so make sure the height is adjusted so the top of the screen is at eye level. If your screen can’t adjust, you can use a monitor raiser or even an old set of books. In addition, but make sure you are using a high quality LCD monitor - anything under a 100 Hz can cause discomfort. From here make sure the keyboard is in front of your computer screen - an awkwardly placed keyboard can cause you to twist and turn your eyes.
All the above, if done correctly, will reduce your digital eye strain. However if you wear contact lenses or bifocals, you might need a little extra help. If you are still suffering from problems you might need blue light blocking computer glasses. These products are optimized to protect your eyes against straining when looking at computer screens. Using anti-reflective (AR) coating, these glasses reduce glare and increases contrast. Quality is key - make sure not to get any cheap or knockoff brands as their AR coating can smudge or flake off easily.
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If you suffer from eye strain you are in good company - the majority of people who work behind computer screens suffer from it at some point. The pain can interfere with your work and leisure, along with making you crabby. While nothing can replace a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist, following these tips can reduce unnecessary eye strain from computers.