Digital Eye Strain | Understanding Why It Happens & How To Combat It
If you sit for long hours looking at a computer screen while working on spreadsheets or write thousands of words daily for articles and blog posts, you may already have experienced digital eye strain (DES). If your eyes feel sluggish and you are experiencing blurry vision, have dry eyes and achy eye muscles, then you are experiencing digital eye strain symptoms.
Between your computer at work and scanning the internet while at home, it is almost inevitable that your eyes will feel tired and achy by the end of the day. According to The Vision Council, almost 83 percent of the American population uses computers or other digital devices for over two hours a day. The reality is that we really use more hours than that at work doing computer-based projects, checking mobile phones, reading books on tablets, and watching training videos.
During our relaxation time after work, we binge watch television series and stream multiple movies, or read a book for several hours. Our modern-day eyes are getting a workout and we are paying for it with degrading vision.
Digital Eye Strain Caused by Blue Light Emissions
Research conducted on the topic of blue light emissions and published in the Harvard Health Letter, shows that while we get a certain amount of blue light during the day from the sun, we also get it at night, disrupting our natural sleep patterns.
The biological clock our bodies have, called the circadian rhythm, is first disrupted by blue wavelengths emitted from lamps and other lights. If you use a computer both during the day and evening hours, digital lights continue to hit your eyes often, meaning you receive these blue wavelengths into the optic lenses and nerves. One big outcome is that the body reacts to this by suppressing natural production of melatonin, which regulates how and when we go to sleep.
If this environment occurs day after day, the body’s blood sugar levels are increased, promoting a potential case for diabetes. Another physical reaction is a suppression of leptin, causing a person to want to snack later, even after a full evening meal. Even the new LED lights, along with florescent lights, produce more blue light than the older warmer lights we have used in the past.
The Harvard study suggests that you avoid looking at any bright screen two to three hours before you plan to go to bed and sleep. You can also buy eye glasses especially made to block blue light wavelengths.
How can you solve the blue light problem if you absolutely must work on your computer at night, or must continually use your mobile phone or tablet? There is an application (app) for that.
On your android phone, go to Google Play, type in “blue light blocker app” and a list of top apps pull up. Check each app for rating, such as 4.5 and higher, an Editor’s Choice tag, and review consumer comments. You can use the same search term at Apple’s App Store to see what pulls up. Always check ratings, pricing, and customer comments. Some of these apps also cross over to laptops and desktops.
At night, consider changing over to red blubs in your nightlights, as these have the least amount of blue light emissions. Get plenty of sunlight during the day as a countermeasure.
8 More Ways to Reduce Digital Eye Strain Symptoms
There are other ways that we can help ourselves reduce these symptoms, starting with how we look at computer screens and other digital devices. Here are a few helpful hints to begin incorporating into your daily routine.
1. Lower the brightness level on your computer screen.
Computer screens come preset at higher brightness levels, and it may be too much for your eyes over long periods of viewing the screen. Try lowering the screen brightness first to see if that helps. You may need a reduction of only one to two levels. Your surrounding lighting level should also be the same – not brighter than, or dimmer than your screen.
You can check your F keys at the top of your computer’s keyboard layout where it shows both the up and down keys that change your screen’s brightness level. Check your computer manual if you are not familiar with your F key arrangement which, for brightness, may show the image of a sun with an up or down arrow. There should be two keys, one for each arrow direction.
On a PC, you press the FN key at the bottom or side of the keyboard and hold it down. Then tap the correct F key with the sun and up or down arrow to lower or raise the screen brightness to what is comfortable for you. If you are on a MAC, there should be a key on your keyboard for the brightness adjustment, or you can go to System Preferences. Then click on Displays in the Hardware section.
Click on the Display tab and move the Brightness slider bar in the needed direction to brighten or reduce the screen lighting. You may experience instant relief from digital eye strain symptoms when brightness level is changed to a lower level.
Ask your manager at work whether you can get permission to download a blue light blocker app on your computer to help you with eye strain prevention. You do have to get permission first from your boss and most likely, the IT department as well. They handle supporting all the software programs installed on company computers. With the right approach and positive argument on why to do this, you may find that you start a company-wide trend where all computers will now get the blue light blocker app. If successful, you can call yourself a company trendsetter.
2. Set your computer screen at the right elevation for your eyes.
Check the position of your computer screen in relationship to your eyes. The top of your screen should be even to, or just below eye level. Your line of vision while viewing your computer screen is at a slightly downward angle.
Avoid the tendency to slump forward while viewing your screen. Keep your back and neck aligned, with support from your office chair. If you drop your shoulders forward while looking slightly down towards the screen, this will add strain to your upper back and neck.
Periodically readjust your shoulders back against the chair back and lift your chin, even while still looking slightly down. This aligns your spine, and you can practice this posture throughout the day by doing the same thing with your shoulders and neck while walking around.
3. Remember to take deep breaths periodically while sitting.
When you are seated for long periods of time, develop a routine of consciously taking deeps breaths for about five minutes, several times an hour. This helps with getting more oxygen not only to your lungs, but to the rest of your body, including those important cells in your eyes.
It is easy while seated for long periods of time to begin slumping your body forward, as mentioned in the earlier paragraph. This leads to shallow breathing as your upper body caves forward, particularly if you are experiencing workplace stress, fatigue, and anxiety.
Holding your shoulders back against the chairback will keep your upper body opened and able to breathe better and deeper. When you take deep breaths, you will find that you automatically open your upper body and your solar plexus to a straighter alignment to take those breaths.
4. Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes.
Once you begin working at your computer, look away every 15 to 20 minutes or so, and look out the window or somewhere in the room, just to move your eyes away from the screen. You may not feel like you need it early on in your work process, but you should do this regardless to alleviate digital eye strain symptoms.
If your eyes feel dry after a while, use a moisturizing eye drop solution to help wet the surface of your eyes. Ideally, you hold the bottle tip close to your eyelid, pull the lid away to create a pocket, and let a drop of solution fall in. Then release your eyelid. You need to move your eyeballs from side to side or in a circular motion, so the moisturizing solution moves over the whole surface rather than just the front areas.
A key point about using moisturizing eye solutions is to never let the bottle tip contact your eyelid or your eye. Clean the tip off if this does happen, before you put the lid back on the bottle.
Never keep an eye solution past its end date and do not let anyone else use that bottle. This also applies to the use of makeup, such as mascara and eyeliner. Protect your eyes from infection at all costs.
5. Do eye exercises.
When you take your eye break from the computer screen every 15 to 20 minutes, move your eyes around, such as moving them from side to side or looking up and moving them side to side. Part of the problem with looking at a digital screen is that your eyes stay in one position for long periods of time, looking straightforward and slightly down. Your eye muscles, therefore, get nominal action, creating that strain of eye muscles holding one position.
Keep your eyes active, blink often to keep the surface of your eyes lubricated, and use moisturizing eye lubricants as needed. Have your eye doctor give you quick and easy eye exercises you can do while seated at your desk.
6. Place your office fan in the right place.
If you use a small fan at your desk to remain cooler while working in a warm, stuffy environment, make sure that you place it where the air does not flow directly on or across your eyes. Placing the fan in front of you will contribute to drying your eyes faster. If placed at one side of you, you get the same result as the air passes across you and the outer eyeball surface.
If you need the air flow, run it for a short time, enough to cool you down, and then turn it off. Or, you can place it behind you to cool you off and run it for longer.
7. Get your eyes checked regularly.
It is important to the health of your eyes that you have an eye doctor or specialist check your eyes. They will check for any eye visual degradation over time and help with eye vision therapy which reduce symptoms of DES.
You will also be examined to see if you need prescription glasses or contact lenses. As we age, natural reduction of vision also adds to the problem. Getting help early will prolong better vision for more years. This helps the older person cope better with aging issues, if they can at least see and hear well.
8. Try to gain control of your allergies.
Allergies are not an outcome of DES but can aggravate your DES situation further. Allergies are caused by irritants in your environment, such as animal fur and dander, chemicals such as bug sprays, perfumes, food ingredients, dust, and pollen. Even the medicine you get treated with can give you an allergic reaction.
If you have had allergies since early childhood, then you are already dealing with it by methods like taking medications and removing any physical source of your problem. Adults even late in life, can develop allergies to things that were not a problem before.
If you are sneezing often, have watery and itchy eyes, or any other symptoms that you did not have before, then you may want to visit your doctor and get tested. You can even be allergic to work. While we can think of this problem with a chuckle, your workplace environment can be a problem without you realizing what the cause is.
The cleaning crew may be using a chemical solution to clean the floors at night. How would you know that is the problem unless you get your hands on a bottle of the solution and have it tested, along with your reaction to it? Even plants brought in at work can cause a problem
Your reaction walking in the door to work every morning could be watery eyes, sneezing, headaches, or a myriad of other physical reactions you would never even think of, such as abnormal fatigue. If you return to feeling fine an hour or two after leaving work and this is consistent over weeks or more, then there is something at work that is causing a problem for you (besides work). You can read further about workplace allergies in an article from Humana, one of the larger medical plan providers in the United States.
Aside from the issue of allergies, you want to reduce your case of eye strain by following the pointers listed above. If you have severe, continuous issues with eye aches and strains, you may also have allergies too. Always check with your doctors so that you get the medical help you need for your own circumstances.
We have looked at major reasons for why we get digital eye strain from several different directions. Those are digital screens and poor light levels, blue light emissions, and even allergies that compound the situation. Let us look at some product solutions that you can try out, that may go a long way to solving some or all of your digital eye strain discomfort.
Products to Help with Digital Eye Strain
You can help yourself feel better by checking out products available on the marketplace that can help you with your digital eye strain. These three products on Amazon are ranked as giving the best solution for your DES and in some cases, allergies too.
We mentioned earlier that there are eyeglasses that help block blue light emissions. So take a closer look at these SightPros that can help you. These glasses were made specifically to reduce the glare effects and significant amount of blue light exposure you might typically get from your digital screens. You can also wear these while binge-watching television shows.
These SightPros eyeglasses have a strong plastic frame that resist bending and warping over long-term use. You can leave them on the whole time you are working at the computer screen and forget you even have them on.
The package you receive includes one pair of SightPros eyeglasses, a protective hard case to carry them in, and a microfiber cloth to gently clean the plastic, yellow-tinted, crystal-clear lenses. The lenses give blue light blocking and are non-polarized, so if you need sunglasses, you want to look elsewhere for those.
The SightPros eyeglasses are for reading and working with digital screens only. You may want one pair for working with computer screens, mobile phones, and tablets, and another pair for watching television screens that are further away from you.
If you already know your vision level that you need for reading and viewing computer screens, you can choose from a wide range scroll-down listing on the right-side box of the page. The choices are: 0.00 D for those who only need blue light blocking without magnification, +0.50 D, +1.00 D, +1.50 D, +2.00 D, and +2.50 D. This ranges from the lowest level to the highest level of magnification, other than the first pair of lenses with no magnification.
Size(s): lens width is 61 millimeters (2.40 inches) across
These glasses can improve overall comfort, especially using them over time. You may notice an even bigger difference if you work on computer screens daily. It is quite possible that your eyes will no longer hurt after a day of working. Another potential benefit is a reduction in headaches—a common digital eye strain symptom.
We’ve tried several pairs and some pinch, but these do not. The SightPros pair is very comfortable. It is important with all glasses that the ear rests on the glasses do not pinch the sides of your head, leaving any grooves that hurt you over repeated usage.
Our only concern is regarding the frames, such as possible breakage and problems with the hinge screws at the joints. You may need to take care in putting on these glasses and when you remove them. You can also take glasses to the jewelers or opticians to have the screw holes re-drilled and new ones added. Check around for pricing on repair work, or if too much trouble, then have them replaced through Amazon or the product seller. Check here on the link for a warranty from SightPros.com.
When you have a combination of digital eye strain and allergies that add to your misery while working at your computer, you can solve one problem by buying the SightPros eyeglasses mentioned above to help first with eyestrain. Then treat yourself to this cooling eye compress, also sold by SightPros, that not only soothes your eyes but also calms down inflamed sinuses caused by allergies. The Cooling Eye Mask reduces dark circles caused by eye strain, lack of sleep, allergens, and reduces headaches and migraines.
You can even buy two of these, keeping one in the freezer, ready to go when the other one has been used and needs a session in the freezer. Just switch it out for the other compress and you are good to continue onwards.
The compress also comes with an elasticized band that easily wraps around the back of your head, keeping the mask securely in place while you rest. SightPros cautions you to never use it for longer than 20 minutes at one time. If you have a place at work where you can safely stretch out for a 15-minute rest, using one of these will help you relax and reduce your eyestrain, itchy eyes, and inflamed nasal membranes. Just keep it in a secure bag in the company kitchen freezer or your lunch case until you are ready to use it.
When you need to clean it, run warm water over both the elastic band and the mask and add a touch of mild soap to gently remove oils and dirt. Let it dry first, then place in your freezer for at least two hours before using it.
Size(s): One size fits all
This is a great product to use on dark circles and puffy bags under your eyes. Those who have sensitivities to creams or other skin products find this works much better for them in reducing both problems, along with itchy eyes, inflamed sinuses from allergies, and headaches from both eyestrain and allergies. The little gel beads inside the mask do not clump together when freezing the mask, giving a nice smooth covering over your eyes. You can even use the mask over your forehead to relieve headaches and migraines. Cold compresses like this are also regularly recommended by doctors, making this a safe and acceptable solution.
We recommend you always check the seams for potential weaknesses and if you find any, have the mask replaced. Check here for warranty information directly from SightPros.com.
One other positive note about the seller, SightPros, is that they go on missions to areas where there is little to no access to medical providers. SightPros gives free eye care to the needy who would otherwise not receive any help. You can check on their website link given above to learn more about their missions.
These blue light-blocking eyeglasses have a dual function that lets you wear these indoors as well as outdoors. The glasses are clear when wearing them while working indoors at your computer in your office. But you can also leave them on when you step outside for lunch or a break. According to the seller, these glasses give a 30 percent block against blue light emissions.
The glass tint transitions from a slightly yellow tint indoors to a dark grey when worn outdoors. The Blue Light Blocking Glasses give 100 percent UV protection, letting one set of these glasses cover light in all possible scenarios, but there is no view magnification. If you need reader’s glasses at different strengths, then consider buying both this One Love set for outdoors and the SightPros set for your office.
When you buy a pair of these glasses, be sure to keep them protected by carrying them in the eyeglass bag given to you in your package. The lenses have a blue coating which gives the lenses the UV protection in the sun. You do not want to scratch this part in any way. The lenses are CR-39 grade plastic polymer (refraction 1.498; Abbe # 58) to give the clearest vision possible, according to the seller.
The One Love team, sellers of this product who are also members of Great Shape, Inc. and the iCARE Project, travel each year to Jamaica to give eye exams and dispense eye glasses to those who would not typically get the eye care they need. They also work to develop new clinics where more people can get the help they need.
Size(s): 3 inches by 2 inches by 2 inches; width at top of frame, according to a customer, is 5½ inches across; weight = 5 ounces
Many people really love using these glasses and the biggest highlight is that the lenses quickly transition between indoor lighting and outdoor sunlight. These glasses are great for those customers who do not need a special prescription or reader’s glasses to work long hours at the computer.
You may notice reduction of glare from viewing the digital screens while wearing these glasses, and that is a big plus as well. Glare and a light setting that is too high on a digital screen can take a toll on your eyes over time.
If you are sitting close to a window and outside lighting is creating a glare on the screen, be sure to close the blinds or drapes while you are working. There should be an even light setting around your environment, as mentioned earlier.
If you look one way to the side or look over the computer to the other end of the room, your eyes should not have to adjust to drastic light changes. The lighting should be at the same level all around you. In an office setting, however, unless everyone else is complaining about the lighting, you may not be able to change overhead lighting or other problematic lights.
One outcome of digital eye fatigue is when eyes feel tired and strained, you also feel fatigue throughout your body. If you think of times that you have felt tired at home or at the end of a long day, your eyes may naturally feel tired too. Your body gives signals that maybe it is time to go to bed. If this happens in the middle of the day, it is hard to continue working when you feel physically fatigued, compounded by strained, itchy, and tired eyes.
Using one or more of the product suggestions should help, along with the earlier tips provided about how you can change parts of your environment to help your eyes work better for longer periods of time. Screen light level can go a long way to helping your eyes, as well as using a pair of the blue light blocking eyeglasses.
Even when you are physically tired, if your eyes still feel fine, you can last longer without having to go off and take a nap. Of course, if you are not getting enough sleep consistently, that will eventually catch up to you regardless of how your eyes feel. It is also dangerous, especially if you get out on the highway and drive while you are tired. Falling asleep at the wheel will likely result in an accident that takes your life or someone else’s life.
At work, more employees are loaded down with projects on the computer to get done in the shortest amount of time available. That may mean having to work quickly, making snap judgments on what step to take next an inevitably, making a few mistakes along the way. What is worse is when you must go back and fix those mistakes before moving on to the next step or project.
Repetitive work where you are entering piece after piece of data into a spreadsheet can tire your eyes, leading you to feel tired all over too. Job stress, demanding bosses who want everything done yesterday, and difficulties with other employees doing their part, can create a difficult situation for you to work.
Warm room temperatures can also cause you to feel tired and sluggish. You may need to use a fan but remember, you do not want the breeze flowing directly on or across your eyes. You can test placing the fan somewhere that will help keep you cool, but will not dry out your eyes.
A research study published in 2015 in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal addresses fatigue management issues in the workplace. The study refers to many of the pointers just mentioned here, although it does not specifically address DES. Yet, it does have a correlation between fatigue and DES, when you do not get enough sleep, work long hours in front of a digital screen, and have workplace allergies too.
Another research study recently published in 2018 in the BMG Open Ophthalmology Journal does suggest this correlation, although briefly. In a separate but related European study, it was discovered that 68 percent of children as young as three years old regularly use a computer with many in this group actively engaged in online activities.
In the United States, a rapidly expanding group of older people are also engaged in online activities, whether it is to pay bills or join social media groups, or finding a convenience in shopping online. Of those who are 60 years and older, 37 percent spend five hours or more using digital devices, although they tend to use computers and desktops more often than smartphones and tablets.
To some degree, this suggests that many are in retirement, but let us also consider that many older people also have side businesses. Access to the internet, along with the ease of building websites makes selling products and services easy to set up, as compared to 20 years ago when selling was done by mail, phone, or direct mail. The point is that elderly people are also susceptible to DES when they never had this problem before during their employment years.
Young people today who are in great shape and have good eyesight now, rarely consider how to help protect their eyes during their busy hours. Without timely intervention, their eyesight can be irreversibly damaged at an earlier age if proper eye care is not started early enough.
It is important that this subject be brought up more often in the workplace where computer or other digital screens are the main working tool(s) in the job. There is more research being done now to address the problem of DES, including its effects on children who increasingly use digital screens for school or video games.
Maintain Good Eyesight & Reduce Digital Eye Strain Symptoms
You can design a healthy diet with the help of your doctor that will help with supporting overall health. Drinking water is also important for keeping your body and your eyes hydrated. Remember to breathe too.