Health Corner: 12 Ways to Protect Your Eyes From Computer Screens

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protect your eyesComputer screens are no longer optional and can be found everywhere, in our homes, offices, supermarkets and now we even carry them with us in form of handheld devices such as iPads. This is why we need to know about eye strain and the way we can protect our eyes from it.

Computer eye strain comes with many different complications such as dryness, blurred vison, headaches, etc. Fortunately, there aren’t any long-term vision or eye-health issues related to the dry, achy, itchy sensations you feel after your prolonged screen sessions. However, this doesn’t mean that years from now we couldn’t find out that too much screen-time messed with our eyes.

To prevent and reduce the risk of computer eye strain and other symptoms of computer vison syndrome here are 12 ways to protect your eyes from computer screens:

  1. Eye exam

Before you start working on a computer, you should have an eye exam. Having this routine eye exam is an important thing you can do to prevent and/or treat computer vision problems. During the exam, you should tell your doctor how often do you use a computer. Also, measure the distance between your eyes and computer screen when you sit at your computer and bring these measurements to your eye doctor so that your eyes can be tested at that specific working distance.

  1. Computer Glasses

Blurred vision, headaches and sore eyes are just some of the symptoms computer users have. What is even worse, many people try to compensate for their blurred vision by leaning forward or by looking through the bottom part of their glasses which in turn causes sore neck, shoulders and back.

If you already have prescription glasses and you still experience eye discomfort during working on your computer, consider using customized computer glasses. Computer glasses are different from regular eyeglasses or reading glasses. They are made to optimize your eyesight when you are using your computer screen.

Computer glasses or computer eyeglasses have approximately 60% the magnifying power of reading glasses. However optimal magnifying power depends on how far or close you like to hold your digital devices. And in case you have astigmatism, computer eyewear should acutely correct it and it should be customized for your individual needs. Using non-prescription reading glasses won’t give you the accurate vision correction.

Research showed that computer glasses can significantly improve and increase worker productivity since computer glasses put the optimum lens power for viewing your computer screen right where you need it. And this way you will have clear view without excessive focusing effort or unhealthy postures.

Computer glasses have single vision lenses with modified lens power. The lens power keeps objects in focus at the distance of the computer screen and provides the largest field of view.

This type of computer glasses reduces risk of eye strain, blurred vision and neck, back and shoulder pain caused by unnatural postures.

Occupational progressive lens is another design of computer glass lens that corrects near, intermediate, and, partially, distance vision.  These lenses have a larger intermediate zone than regular progressive lenses, but because of this there is less lens area for distance vision, so these lenses are not recommended for driving or other significant distance vision tasks.

Occupational bifocal and trifocal lenses are another type of lenses used for computer glasses. These lined multifocal lenses have larger zones for intermediate and near vision than regular bifocals and trifocals, and the position of the intermediate and near zones can be customized for your particular computer vision needs.

Lenses of your computer glasses should include anti-reflective coating. Anti-reflective coating eliminates reflections of light from the front and back surfaces of your lenses that can cause eye strain. Computer glasses with photochromic lenses can shield your eyes from potentially harmful high-energy visible blue light from your computer screen and digital devices — and automatically darken in sunlight outdoors, too.

  1. Contact Lenses

The type of light that computer screens emit and the way the human eyes focus on the screen can over time have certain negative effects on the eyes. These effects include irritation, eye strain, dryness, blurred vision, etc. And for people who use contact lenses these effects can be even more drastic. In order to prevent these effects, you should consider contact lenses that offer certain features. Those features include moisture, texture and permeability.

Blinking is highly important for maintaining eye health and clarity of vision. By blinking, your eyelids spread tears over your eyes, which moist and clean the surface. When using digital devices, we don’t blink as frequently and as completely as we should, and this leads to dry and irritated eyes. By wearing contact lenses designed to keep the eyes moist, we avoid this problem. And if after switching contacts you still experience discomfort and dryness, try using artificial tears and also make an effort to blink more frequently.

When it comes to the texture, smoother lenses are better. Slicker lenses make less friction when moving across the surface of the eye. These types of lenses cause less irritation and also reduce the feeling of tired eyes at the end of the day, which is common for people who use computers for a living. Lenses with soft surface gel and with silicone allow more oxygen to pass through to your eyes.

Silicone hydrogel is one of the latest developments in the contact lens technology. This material is made to allow more oxygen to pass through the lens and in this way, helps keep your eyes fresh. Also, more oxygen reduces the risk of eye infection.

  1. Proper lighting

Excessively bright light both from sunlight coming in through a window and from interior lighting can cause severe eye strain. You should eliminate exterior light with drapes and blinds and reduce interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or fluorescent tubes. The ambient lighting should be half as bright as that typically found in offices. You will only need adequate indirect light around you for comfortable viewing. Also, don’t work in dark rooms because computer glaring at you is not a good solution either. One of the solutions is to, if possible, position your computer monitor or screen so windows are to the side, instead of in front or behind it.

Many people find that turning off overhead fluorescent lights feels better on their eyes. If possible, turn off these lights and use floor lamps or halogen lighting instead.

  1. Reduce glare

Our computer screens have self-illuminating and mirror-like properties that cause the external light to be reflected off the screen, causing glare to our eyes. This glare can cause strain to your eyes. Installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor can eliminate reflection, as well as monitor filter to reduce glare and prevent blue light. Also, if possible, paint bright white walls a darker color with a matte finish. Again, one of the solutions is to cover the windows by installing blinds or shades to reduce room lighting.

If none of the solutions from above work for you, try using computer glasses with anti-reflecting coating on their lenses. This coating reduces glare by minimizing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses.

  1. Display upgrade

If you haven’t already, change your monitors to flat-panel LCD (liquid crystal display). LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have anti-reflective surface. Unlike old-fashioned CRT monitors, LCD ones have a higher refresh rate. Flicker is not an issue with LCD screens, since the brightness of pixels on the display are controlled by a “backlight” that typically operates at 200 Hz. If you see a lower refresh rate noted on an LCD screen, don’t worry because this refers to how often a new image is received from the video card, not how often the pixel brightness of the display is updated, and this function is not typically associated with eye strain.

Also, when choosing a new flat panel display, select a screen with the highest resolution possible. Resolution is related to the “dot pitch” of the display. Mostly, displays with a lower dot pitch have sharper images. Choose a display with a dot pitch of .28 mm or smaller.

For more comfortable viewing choose a monitor that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches. All of this will help prevent eye strain.

  1. Adjust computer display settings

You can help reduce eye strain and fatigue by adjusting your computer display settings.

Start by adjusting the brightness of the display to, more or less, match the environment you are working in. If you want to test this, just look at the white background on your computer screen, if it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. And if it seems gray and dull, it may be too dark.

When reading or writing long documents, adjust the size and contrast of the text, so that it is comfortable for you. The best combination for comfort is black text on a white background.

Blue light is visible light associated with eye strain, more than any other longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display, also known as color temperature, lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort.

If your computer runs on a Microsoft Windows operating system, you can adjust your display settings in Control Panel. And if you have Apple computer, display settings are found in Systems Preferences (in the Applications folder in Finder). In some cases, the color temperature of a desktop computer monitor is adjusted on the display itself.

  1. Exercise your eyes

Another source of discomfort derives from the muscles around the eyes that allow them to track and focus – this discomfort is also known as focusing fatigue. While the screen remains at a fixed distance from the eyes and the focal distance remains the same, eyes need to move from side to side to read texts or watch videos. This position is very tiring for the muscles and they become fatigued over the time.

To reduce this risk of tiring your eyes take momentary breaks of 20 to 30 minutes and gaze at a distant object. Flexing the muscles around the eyes is just as important as stretching after sitting in one position for a while. It allows the muscles to relax and makes them feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Another good exercise is to look far away at an object for 10-15 seconds, and then transfer the gaze to a closer object for another 10-15 seconds. And then keep repeating this for about 10 times. By doing this exercise you prevent your eyes’ focusing ability from “locking up” after prolonged computer use.

At the end of the day give your eyes a well-deserved rest. You can start by learning some eye relaxation techniques. Massage your eyes with the warm cloth technique or relax with an Eye Mask for fast and effective relief of eye strain and muscle tension. You can even try some eye yoga exercises, it may sound funny, but these exercises will help you use your eyes to their fullest capability and also help them return to their natural state.

  1. Blink more often

Our eyes have many issues when staring at computer screen and one of them is the lack of blinking. Normally, people blink once every 5 seconds and by blinking the eyes moisten themselves and this way prevent dryness and irritation. However, when using a computer, people blink less frequently, maybe twice a minute and not as completely. This means that eyelids don’t close all the way and our eyes don’t get enough moisture. This causes discomfort associated with prolonged computer use.

To prevent this kind of discomfort, try blinking more frequently. Even though, this may sound easy, it is in fact more difficult in practice since blinking is an automatic reflex and trying to consciously blink can be challenging. It may prove difficult to remember to blink every 5 seconds, but a few long blinks every minute or two will certainly help a lot.

  1. Take frequent breaks

To avoid computer vision syndrome and pain in your neck, shoulders and back, take frequent breaks. If possible, break for 5 minutes in every 1 hour of computer work. And don’t worry, these breaks don’t reduce your productivity, they can even increase it.

During these breaks stand up, move around and stretch your limbs, neck, shoulders and back to reduce tension and fatigue.

  1. Modify workstation

According to some studies, eyes produce more tears when looking down, that is why more comfortable viewing can be achieved when the computer screen is below eye level. If the screen is too high, you are forced to constantly keep your eyes wide and blink less frequently, and thus causing eye strain and dry, irritable eyes. This can also cause neck pain and headaches since your head is tilted back to see.

You can deal with this problem by positioning your monitor below your eye level and adjusting your chair to a correct height or by sitting upright with your back erected to avoid back strain.

Position your screen 20 to 24 inches from your eyes to avoid squinting. The center of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.

Looking back and forth between your computer screen and printed page can also cause eye strain. Solve this by placing the printed pages on a copy stand next to your monitor. By using desk lamp, light the copy stand properly, but make sure that the light doesn’t shine in your eyes or onto computer screen.

  1. Stay hydrated

Just like your eyes need to stay hydrated, so does your body. Staying hydrated is important, because insufficient water intake can worsen irritated dry eyes. Be sure to drink a lot of water, at least 3 or 4 large glasses of water a day. Many times, we forget to drink water as we are too engrossed or too busy with our computer activities. Keep your water supply within reach and perhaps, fill several containers.

Don’t forget to visit the toilet too. Holding your urine creates unnecessary stress in your body.