As screen time increases, here’s how to protect your eyes.
In today’s environment, personal computers, laptops, tablets, phones, and other digital devices have become increasingly important in all our lives. Work meetings on Zoom and Skype, binge sessions on streaming platforms, distance learning, and digital meetups with family and friends are now an everyday occurrence. We’re all doing our best to keep ourselves productive, engaged, and, above all, grounded, during these precarious times. But how do our eyes cope with the changes, especially when they seem to be glued to one or another screen for hours and hours on end? Taking a few simple steps each day can help save your eye health from the ill effects of extended digital screen exposure.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, as it’s also known, results when you spend extended periods using and looking at devices with digital displays. There are several reasons for this. First, and probably most commonly known, a major portion of the visible light that many screen types produce falls within the blue light range. When blue light enters your eyes, it scatters, requiring additional effort to refocus and see properly.
What’s more, most screen types combine pixels—no matter how small and fine, or subtle to your eye—of different colors that contrast to create the images on your screen. Even if you do not consciously notice the difference, the text on your screen is less precise and sharp as the text printed in traditional media, like books, magazines, and newspapers. Text on screens also tends to have a lower contrast between the background and the actual text. Making matters worse, when your screen is made from glass or there’s a lot of light in the room, you may experience a reflection or glare that you must “look past” to see your work. When your eyes try to compensate for these added difficulties, they must work harder to keep everything in focus, eventually overexerting them.
Other common causes of digital eye strain include:
Uncorrected vision problems—don’t underestimate the underlying contribution of other vision problems. If your eyes already have trouble focusing on nearby objects, then CVS might be intensified. Things like astigmatism, farsightedness, presbyopia resulting from aging, or poor eye coordination abilities all might be making your CVS worse if they are undiagnosed or your prescription is not up to date.
Improper lighting and contrast—when the brightness of your screen does not match the general brightness of your environment, then this can also contribute to digital eye strain. Every time you look away and back to your screen, the contrast in lighting forces your eyes to readjust. The lower the contrast, the less readjusting necessary.
Improper screen position, screen distance, and sitting posture—when objects are too close, it takes more effort for your eyes to focus on them. This principle applies to digital screens as well. Furthermore, when your screen is far below your line of sight—as is oftentimes the case with handheld devices or laptops resting on a desk—the angles increase glare and you must crane your neck to see the screen properly.
In focusing so much on digital text and images, with less than ideal viewing conditions, your eyes just naturally grow weary with the passage of a few hours. Any or all of the following symptoms may result:
If you notice that you are experiencing any of these symptoms following long periods in front of a screen, then you may have unaddressed troubles with computer vision syndrome.
Six strategies for reducing your screen time and your digital eye strain
Although it’s clear that digital screens are here to stay around awhile, it doesn’t mean that the quality of your eye health must suffer as a result. By following these tips, and consulting with your eye doctor, you’ll have every chance of looking far beyond this time of crisis and uncertainty, with as much clarity as 20-20(-20) vision.
If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP Individual Vision Plans can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.
Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.