Prevent Digital Eye Strain During Winter Months
Chilly winds and unpredictable temperatures make everyone want to stay indoors during the winter. Do you find yourself wanting to work from home or stay inside to watch movies or browse the internet more than usual? While movie marathons and TikTok trends can help pass hours of your day away, too much screen time can cause vision challenges.
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Staring at a screen for extended periods without blinking can cause the eyes to become dry and tired. This condition is called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome. According to the Vision Council, more than 83 percent of Americans admit to using digital devices more than two hours per day, and 60 percent say they experience side effects of eye fatigue. Those surveyed reported the following symptoms:
- Neck/shoulder pain (35 percent)
- Blurred vision (27.9 percent)
- Headaches (27.7 percent)
- Dry eyes (27.2 percent)
It should be noted that eye fatigue can present itself in several ways for everyone.
“Eye strain is more of a symptom than an actual condition,” explains Laurie Barber, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist. “People use the term differently. One person may mean their eyes are tired or watery, while another may have blurred vision. Some people may have headaches they attribute to eye strain, and others may have facial muscle fatigue from squinting for long periods because they are not wearing the correct glasses.”
Simple Tips to Reduce Digital Eye Strain
Our society is not likely to cut back on screen usage anytime soon. However, you can protect your eyes from digital eye strain by making easy adjustments to your habits. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology to help you keep your eyes more comfortable this winter:
- Increase your blink rate. People blink about 15 times per minute, on average, but blink rate tends to decrease by 50 percent when using screens. Blinking provides essential lubrication to the eyes to provide moisture, so although blinking is an involuntary reflex, you should attempt to voluntarily blink the eyes more often than you think is necessary while on your computer.
- Reduce overhead light to eliminate screen glare.
- Use computer eyeglasses. If you notice that your eyes are bothering you when you work on the computer, you may want to talk to your ophthalmologist about prescription glasses for intermediate distance. Wearing computer eyeglasses can reduce eye strain and prevent eye fatigue.
- Increase font sizes, reduce brightness and sharpen the contrast on your computer screen.
- When at a computer, position yourself a full arm’s distance away from the screen and keep your screen at eye level.
- Use artificial tears. Cold, dry temperatures can make your eyes itchy and tired. Artificial tears can refresh and rejuvenate your eyes.
- Adjust your air vents. Position air vents so the air flow does not blow directly into your face. This will help your eyes feel more comfortable.
- Use a humidifier. If your eyes feel dry and you notice you are rubbing them often, consider purchasing a humidifier and use it in your office during the winter months.
- Take regular breaks and follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, you should look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- Make sure your glasses always fit well. Glasses that are too tight on the temples will give you a headache.
Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam in 2024
Even when following all the tips above, nothing replaces quality eye care. Give your eyes extra love by making an appointment with your eye doctor. A new year provides opportunities for you to renew your commitment to your eye health.
When was the last time you made an appointment for a full eye exam with dilation? Annual vision tests can detect changes in your vision and diagnose eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration at an early stage when they are the most treatable.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of eye fatigue or dry eye, keep a journal of your symptoms. Your ophthalmologist will give you a visual acuity test, evaluate for refractive errors, examine your eye muscles and assess whether you need a new prescription for corrective lenses.