Blinking is essential. Every time our eyelids close, salty secretions from our tear glands sweep over our eyes’ surfaces, protecting them from harmful particles. The average person blinks 12 to 15 times per minute but when you’re in front of a computer screen, that number decreases dramatically to 3 to 4 times per minute. With the average American spending 6 to 8 hours each day in front of a computer, we’re missing out on hundreds of opportunities to cleanse and protect our eyes.
As more and more electronics hit the market and the consumer’s insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest gadget grows, we’ve seen a steady increase in patients with digital eye strain. Because our eyes reduce their blinking when we concentrate on visual tasks like typing at a computer, reading on a tablet or texting on a cell phone, we’re seeing a dramatic rise in patients visiting our office with dry, red and irritated eyes. Computer Eye Syndrome also causes a buildup of environmental irritants on the surface of the cornea and an excess of mucous, resulting in blurred vision and pain in and around the eye. Age can play a factor as tear film decreases after age 55 and medications such as anti-histamines, diuretics and anti-depressants affect tear production, contributing to an increased risk of computer related dry eye.
While this is not a permanent or blinding disorder, it can affect an individual’s ability to work comfortably. Some simple, eye healthy habits along with a consultation with your eye care provider can solve most of these issues.
- The first and most important thing to do is to have a comprehensive eye exam to determine if there is any underlying eye disease.
- Once that is ruled out, your doctor can then recommend a prescription lens that is optimized for the device you use most often. More and more, we’re recommending a computer-only lens so patients will remove their distance oriented lens and put on spectacles designed to maximize vision for images inside three feet. These so called “desktop” lenses can then be customized with anti-reflective coatings to reduce glare as well as filters to block out the blue and violet light that is emitted from most digital screens.
- Other ergonomic changes can be of benefit such as adjusting your screen so that it is directly in front of you, slightly below eye level with an arms-length distance between you and the screen.
- Adjust the text size to make it more comfortable.
- Reduce overhead and external lighting as much as possible to reduce glare.
- Always remember that you need to take a break in order for your eyes to blink and your visual system to relax. Many studies promote a 20/20/20 formula to reduce digital eye strain. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and stare off at an object 20 feet away.
- In addition, consumers using digital screens for extended periods should use a lubricating eye drop about every 1 to 2 hours to keep the corneal surface clean and smooth. This will reduce irritation, grittiness and pain as well as chronic red eyes.
With these simple remedies, individuals will have a more comfortable and productive work day.