Digital eye strain (DES) or visual fatigue (VF) has been recognized as a health condition for more than two decades. With increasing screen use by all ages the problem is a common one. The following discusses the most regularly seen symptoms and the efforts we can take to reduce their severity or prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Digital Eye Strain: The symptoms

  • The most common symptoms
  • The most common causes

The most common symptoms

According to the American Optometric Association, the following are the most commonly reported symptoms.

  • Eye strain (fatigue and tired eyes)
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry, itchy, and irritated eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

The most common causes

The two biggest enemies to eye health are blue light and glare. Today’s computer, laptop, tablet, and phone screens all emit blue light. This, combined with the glare they also produce, has a detrimental effect on our vision. There’s also increasing evidence that overexposure to blue light causes damage to the retina, one of the structures within the eye.

The very act of focusing on a screen for extended periods causes excess stress on the eyes. It puts further strain on the ciliary muscle at the back of the eye, causing it to spasm. This can be a key cause of ocular migraine, blurred vision, and eye fatigue.

Add in the fact that concentrating on a screen-related task means we forget to blink regularly, reducing the natural eye lubrication, and you can understand where the dryness, itching, and irritated symptoms come from.

The penchant for hunching over devices or poor posture when working at a desk is what leads to neck and shoulder pain.

How to Alleviate Digital Eye Strain

  • Glasses and lenses
  • Eye drops
  • The 20-20-20 rule
  • Positioning

Glasses and lenses

Using computer glasses that eliminate glare and filter blue light is one of the best ways to help reduce the effects of digital eye strain. There are many on the market but are of varying quality. The best incorporate lenses that eliminate glare and filter blue light and can, if you need them, have a magnification element.

For most people, the glasses are those that utilize the prescription from your ophthalmologist and are fashioned specifically for when you’re working at your computer or looking at a device.

Eye drops

Because we tend to blink less when looking at a screen, those who suffer from dry, irritated eyes might benefit from using eye drops (also called artificial tears).

The 20-20-20 rule

This means that every 20 minutes you should look away from your screen and stare at something around 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will help reduce the stress your eyes undergo when looking at a screen for extended periods.

Make it even healthier by standing and walking around for a minute or so. That will also go some way to helping alleviate posture-related pain in your neck, shoulders, and back.

Positioning

It’s vitally important that your work station is set up so you’re at the proper distance from your screen and positioned at the right height. This helps prevent squinting and ensures you’re not hunching over as you work. This will go a long way to helping with musculoskeletal pain in your neck and shoulders.

Digital Eye Strain FAQs

  • Other essential steps to reducing digital eye strain
  • Is digital eye strain permanent?

Other essential steps to reducing digital eye strain

By far the most important step you can take to reduce the effects of digital eye strain is to have regular eye exams. Depending on your age and eye health, these should be scheduled every six months to a year. Your expert ophthalmologist will advise as to how often they should be.

In addition, take the following steps:

Increase the size of text on digital devices so you don’t need to squint

Work in well-lit areas

Reduce harsh overhead lighting to further reduce glare

Take frequent breaks from all screen use

Is digital eye strain permanent?

Thankfully, the short-term effects of digital eye strain don’t tend to be permanent. However, as previously mentioned, there is increasing evidence that excessive blue light exposure can cause irreversible damage to the retina.

Contact the West Boca Eye Center to Schedule Your Eye Exam Now

Effective management, advice, and treatment is the key to good eye health, no matter how much or how little you use digital devices. Brent Bellotte MD., of the West Boca Eye Center, is a world-leading ophthalmologist who’ll ensure the best course of action for all vision-related conditions and the continuing good physical condition of your eyes.

Visit West Boca Eye Center now to schedule your appointment.