It’s irrefutable: technology is now an indelible part of our daily lives. However, the downside of increased device usage – phones, e-readers, tablets and laptops – is the strain it puts on our health, especially on our eyes. Staring at a digital screen at a close distance for more than 2 hours without any breaks can result in “digital eye strain”, where our eye muscles are under intense strain. This, in turn, can cause a number of symptoms including chronic dry eyes, headaches, eye irritation, neck or shoulder soreness, and blurred or double vision.

Staring at a computer and mobile devices can strain your eyes far more than reading print media primarily owing to the following:

  • Decreased blink rates
  • Poorly adjusted brightness and contrast on screens which makes it hard to distinguish text easily
  • Constant glare and reflection due to poor lighting
  • Improper setting of your workstation or desk at home
  • Poor posture

Here are a few ways in which you can reduce digital eye strain and protect your eyes:

Take a Break

It’s the easiest, yet most effective thing you can do for your eyes. Step away from your desk and do something – anything – that doesn’t involve using your eyes a lot for at least 10 – 15 minutes.

The 20-20-20 Rule

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away for 20 seconds at something that is about 20 feet away. By changing your focal point, it can help your eye muscles relax.

Blink Often and Deliberately

Blinking not only protects our eyes from dust and other irritants, it also helps keep your eyes moist and lubricated. Staring at a computer or digital screen causes us to blink less, which can result in dry and irritated eyes. So, blink deliberately and frequently to prevent this.

Use Proper Lighting

Bright light like sunlight coming in from a window or harsh overhead lighting can cause your eyes to strain. Ideally, the ambient light should not overpower the brightness of your screen. Close your drapes or blinds, and angle your screen in a way that the windows are to the side of your screen. Get rid of fluorescent or overhead lights at your desk; stick to a desk-lamp or low-intensity halogen lighting for your workspace.

Minimize Glare

The glare coming off your walls or reflections on your computer screen can make working at your computer screen a problem. Fit an anti-glare screen on your monitor or invest in a pair of anti-glare glasses which have an anti-reflective coating.

Adjust your Screen Settings

Adjust your screen’s brightness to be the same as that of your ambient lighting. The brightness and contrast on your screen should be adjusted so that the text is distinct and sharp against the background. Ideally, a dark text on light background is best for minimal eye strain. For websites that use poor contrast between their text and backgrounds, you can override the CSS by adjusting the accessibility settings in your browser.

Ditch the CRTs, Switch to LCD or LED Monitors

It’s 2017, so it’s likely you already have a LCD or LED monitor. But if you don’t already, replace them immediately. CRT monitors have an imperceptible (and sometimes perceptible) flicker that can cause your eye muscles to strain.

Stay Hydrated

Drink lots and lots of water: if your body is hydrated, your eyes will be, too. You can also minimize strain by drinking green tea; the catechins (antioxidants) present in green tea can help with better lubrication.

See an Optometrist

Get a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year. Be clear and upfront with your doctor about your computer/device usage, so they can prescribe the right corrective measures and glasses for you. And, you should definitely see your doctor if your eye strain symptoms don’t ease up after taking any of the above measures or persist for a long time.

Eye-strain is common and can be easily avoided by following a few simple exercises and practices for your eyes, and making a few adjustments to your work-space.

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