According to the Vision Council, 80% of Americans spend more than two hours per day on screens — and often much more. All those hours can lead to blurry vision, dry eyes and headaches: the symptoms of digital eye strain.
The good news? Even if you’ve never worn glasses, prescription computer glasses with an anti-reflective coating can make a big difference. The prescription is tailored to your eyes, allowing you to more easily focus on a screen. The coating cuts glare from your screen and surroundings, says Morgan Baker, O.D., an optometrist at Henry Ford Health. “These glasses can even be customized so you can wear them over contacts.”
How Screens Impact Your Vision
The blue light from your screen is a low-intensity light. Unlike the high-intensity ultraviolet light from the sun, light from a screen can’t damage the eye if viewed directly. But the more time you spend looking at screens, the greater the risk for digital eye strain.
To understand how this happens, think about the eye’s focusing muscles working like the muscles in your arm. Lifting and holding a 10-pound weight for a minute may not strain your arm muscles. But if you hold the weight for an hour, your arms are more likely to become tense and ache.
Your eye’s focusing muscles work the same way, helping you see screen images at a short distance. “The longer you look at the screen, the harder your focusing muscles work to help you see clearly,” says Dr. Baker.
For children, screens can also cause digital eye strain and potentially longer-lasting eye problems. “Some studies have shown a link between prolonged screen usage and an increased risk for nearsightedness (myopia) in children. That’s why it’s important to limit screen time as children develop,” adds Dr. Baker.
How Glasses Can Ease Digital Eye Strain
Even though screens have become a part of everyday life, you can take steps to protect yourself and ease digital eye strain.
As a first step, Dr. Baker suggests adding eyewear customized for screen viewing. While over-the-counter computer glasses are available, she recommends prescription computer glasses, which offer:
- Customized lenses: Your optometrist and ophthalmologist can examine your eyes and identify the right prescription to help you comfortably focus on your computer, laptop or other digital devices. At the same time, they can also identify other eye conditions contributing to vision symptoms like blurring or dry eyes.
- Anti-glare coating: Choose from various anti-reflective coatings and tints to reduce glare from your screen and surroundings, especially fluorescent lights found in many offices.
What You Should Know About Contacts And Screens
Many people choose to wear contacts to enjoy a more extensive range of vision (and to avoid wearing glasses). While contacts offer many advantages, they also contribute to eye dryness. That’s because the contact lens sits on the eye’s surface, causing natural tears to evaporate quickly.
So wearing contacts while focusing on a screen for hours may increase eye irritation and fatigue. You can reduce these symptoms by taking a break from your contacts and wearing prescription computer glasses while you work.
Your optometrist can also customize computer glasses to wear over your contacts, helping you focus more easily and reducing glare from your screen and surroundings.
More Strategies To Reduce Digital Eye Strain And Improve Overall Health
Along with blurry vision, digital eye strain can cause aches in your head, neck and back. “Take these symptoms as a signal that your body needs a break,” says Dr. Baker. She suggests implementing these additional strategies to reduce digital eye strain and improve your overall health:
- Adjust your view: Turn down the brightness, enlarge the font and increase the contrast on your screen. Many monitors offer a blue light filter in the display settings.
- Blink: Our eyes become dry as we focus on a screen for long periods. Be sure to blink frequently to restore moisture to your eyes.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Look away from your screen every 20 minutes at a distance of at least 20 feet for 20 seconds or more. This will give your eye muscles a break.
- Get moving: Step away from your computer and spend time stretching or fitting in a short workout. The movement will help manage stress and improve concentration when you return to work.
To find an optometrist or ophthalmologist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.
Morgan Baker, O.D., F.A.A.O., is an optometrist at Henry Ford Health. She sees patients at Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center--Southfield.