Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are terms used to describe vision-related problems that result from prolonged – and particularly close up – viewing of devices with modern screens such as flat screen televisions, computers, tablets like iPads and mobile phones.
Eye strain caused by the displays of digital devices is becoming increasingly common as we rely more on these devices in our daily lives. Physical eye discomfort can occur in any healthy individual, but particularly among those who use a screen for longer than two hours at a time. The technical term for digital eye strain is asthenopia, but may also be known as digital eye fatigue or computer vision syndrome.
Symptoms of digital eye strain may include one or more of the following:
- Dry eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Sore, irritated eyes
- Eyes that are slow to focus
- Excessive tears
- Blurred or double vision
- Increased light sensitivity
- Pain in neck, shoulders or back.
The good news is that there are ways to alleviate digital eye strain and it can be prevented with the right corrective lenses and regular eyecare.
What causes digital eye strain?
Causes include the extended use of digital devices – especially TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones; exposure to bright light and glare; engaging in long periods of activities that demand focus and concentration; or straining to see in very dim light.
Our ciliary muscles in each eye work hard when we need to focus up close or shift our focus to varying distances. Being overworked and looking at fixed-distance screens for prolonged periods of time often leads to digital eye strain.
Who can suffer from digital eye strain?
If you spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen then you are at risk of suffering digital eye strain.
On average Australians are spending a total of 9.4 hours daily in front of a screen, with this increasing to 11.4 hours and 10.2 hours per day for office workers and Gen Y respectively. As we spend more of our waking time in front of screens than eating, exercising, commuting and getting ready for the day combined, * more people are becoming concerned with the impact of eye strain on their health and wellbeing.
As many as 90% of people who work primarily on computers report some symptoms of digital eye strain. But, did you know that school-aged children are also at risk?
How can you prevent digital eye strain?
There are a number of ways you can prevent digital eye strain:
- Blink – make a conscious effort to blink more frequently. Screen use strains eyes more than reading print material because people tend to blink less while using computers and other digital devices (blinking prevents eyes from drying out).
- Distance – maintain proper distance and angle between your screen and your eyes. A minimum of one arm length to a digital screen is suggested.
- Rest and relax – Give your eyes a break by getting away from the screen at regular intervals. Simply look at something on the other side of the room, or get up and take a walk around. A short break at least once per hour is all you need.
- Correct your vision – Find the right lens if you need vision correction.
- Book an eye exam – Your optometrists can check your eye health and see if you need corrective lenses.
The benefits of alleviating eye strain are numerous and include us being more productive, feeling less irritated and sluggish and generally being more relaxed.