As a society, we’re obsessed with all things digital like our smartphones, TV’s, laptops and tablets. Our eyes are paying the price for our nonstop usage of our devices, especially now that our homes have transformed into our daycares, offices and gyms because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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We’re relying a lot on our laptops and phones to help us get through this difficult time and in turn, we’re more prone to experiencing computer vision syndrome (CVS). Upwards of 90% of computer and device users experience CVS, which comes with symptoms such as decreased or blurred vision, burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches and back and neck pain.
If these symptoms affect you, ophthalmologist Rishi Singh, MD, recommends the following tips to ease the strain and avoid the pain.
1. Adjust your viewing angle
The angle of your gaze plays a key role in CVS. For the best angle, the center of the monitor, tablet or phone should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level. If you’re looking back and forth between a screen and reference materials, keep those materials where you can see them with minimal head movement.
2. Reduce glare
Letters on a screen are not as clear as letters on a printed page. Too little contrast between letters and background or glare on the screen makes your eyes work harder. The result: sensitivity to light.
“Position your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights or windows,” says Dr. Singh. “Close the blinds on your windows or switch to lower-watt bulbs in your desk lamp. If you can’t change the lighting to minimize glare, buy a glare filter for your screen.”
3. Use the 20-20-20 rule
When using a computer or device for an extended period of time, take regular breaks to prevent eye strain. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to refocus. After two hours of continual computer use, rest your eyes for 15 minutes.
4. Blink often
People normally blink about 18 times a minute, but computer users tend to blink only one fourth as often. This increases the chance of developing dry eye.
“To reduce this risk, remind yourself to blink more often and refresh your eyes periodically with lubricating eye drops,” says Dr. Singh.
After you’re done looking at your devices for the night, keep the humidity in your bedroom at least to 40% when you’re sleeping to decrease your risk of developing dry eye.
5. Get your eyes checked
Uncorrected vision problems — farsightedness or astigmatism, problems focusing or coordinating the eyes and eye changes associated with aging — can contribute to eyestrain and musculoskeletal pain.
Even if you don’t need glasses or contacts for daily activities, you may need them for computer or device use. If you do wear glasses or contacts and need to tilt your head or lean toward the screen to see it clearly, your lens prescription may need to be adjusted. Get an eye checkup to make sure your prescription is right.
“Getting an eye checkup can help prevent pain in the neck, shoulders or back that results from contorting your body to see the screen,” says Dr. Singh.
6. Limit screen time
Although our digital-focused society demands screen time from the moment we wake up to the second we go to bed, it’s crucial to limit your screen time. Not only is looking at your laptop or phone before you go to bed bad for your eyes, but it also inhibits your sleep. Your brain doesn’t have a chance to slow down and it keeps you awake for longer, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.
Gradually start decreasing your screen time before you go to bed. Start with putting your phone away 30 minutes before hitting the hay and then increase it to an hour. When it comes to your eye health, social media and email can wait.