15May 2018

Digital Eye Strain is a Real Headache

The average American worker spends at least seven hours each day on a computer. That’s nearly 90 percent of the typical eight-hour work day.

And, all of this screen time can be painful—literally.

You can count me among those who’ve experienced a migraine (or several) while working in front of my beloved computer. And then there’s the time that I—and maybe you too—spend using a tablet or smartphone. Staring at digital screens too long not only leads to headaches, but also blurred vision, dry eyes, neck pain, and shoulder pain. These are all symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)—also referred to as Digital Eye Strain.

Unfortunately, cutting down on the number of hours spent looking at a digital screen isn’t an option for most of us. At least not at work. You can try to ignore the headaches. You can try to “battle through” the discomfort.  But what does that do for your workplace productivity? Chances are you’re not at your best when symptoms of eye strain occur. And you probably work much slower, too.

Digital eye strain leads to headaches and other discomforts.

Eyes need rest too

Instead of battling through, why not take some time to give your eyes a break? The American Optometric Association (AOA) offers several suggestions on how to do this, including:

  • The 20-20-20 rule. That is, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and focus your eyes on an object 20 feet away.
  • Frequent blinking. This creates tears that lubricate the eyes, which minimizes the risk of dry eye that can result from staring at a digital screen too long.
  • Proper monitor placement. The AOA recommends between 20 and 28 inches from the eyes to the monitor. You should be sitting up straight with your head and neck upright, not leaning forward or squinting at the screen.
  • Lighting. You want to avoid glare from windows and overhead lights. A screen glare filter for your computer terminal is one option. You could also close the blinds or drapes to filter out glare from sunlight, and use low-wattage bulbs in your desk lamps. For those—like me—bothered by the flicker from fluorescent lights, you might consider turning some of those off if at all possible.

Another important thing that I always incorporate into my workday is movement. Even with all the steps suggested by the AOA, there’s no perfect posture to keep your eyes and body from becoming fatigued if you sit all day. Getting up and leaving the computer workstation for short periods of time throughout the day can also provide additional relief. And, according to a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), these short breaks won’t affect productivity.

Digital technology is a fact of life in today’s workplace. You benefit from the efficiency that comes with the different machines, but need to make some adjustments in order to minimize the discomforts, such as Digital Eye Strain.

Your eyes will thank you for it. Mine just did.

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