Many people tell me that their eyes feel tired at the end of the day and they feel fatigued when they use a computer for a prolonged period of time. They often state their computer “hurts their eyes” but there is nothing they can do about it because they have to use a computer while at work. Not true!
There is such a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome which basically is an umbrella diagnosis that covers many eye and vision-related problems associated with using a computer for many hours a day, many days a week. But there is something you can do about it! Let’s talk a little about what causes computer-related eye strain and visual discomfort first, then we will go over some simple tricks you can use every day (coupled with yearly eye exams) to help prevent that “eye strain and pain caused by a computer.”
Some symptoms of computer-related vision problems can be:
- dry eyes
- blurred vision
- watery eyes
- eyes burning or stinging
- problems focusing
When viewing a computer screen, our eyes do “work harder.” Here’s why:
Looking at a computer is different than looking at a book or words printed on paper. The contrast of the letters to the background can be reduced on a computer screen due to a certain program or webpage’s design for example, and there can also be reflections and glare present on the screen which do not exist on paper. Also, viewing distances and angles can be different when comparing reading documents on paper to that on a computer screen. As a result, your eye focusing and eye movement requirements may take on more than they usually have to. Also, eyeglasses or contacts designed for general use may not be suitable for computer use. Lenses designed for intermediate viewing distances (which means the distance from your eyes to your computer screen) can be tailored to fit your computer viewing needs.
One can get overwhelmed at all of the ways your computer can contribute to that tired, eye-strain feeling. But don’t fret. There are simple ways to help!
Let’s start with Ergonomics and see what the proper distances and viewing angles of your computer should be set up at in order to help your body and eyes feel relaxed.
“Be Kind to Your Eyes” Computer Set-Up:
- Location and Angle of Computer Screen– Most people feel it most comfortable when their screen is 20- 28 inches from their eyes and when they are looking slightly downward at the screen so position your screen so that the center of the screen is about 4 inches below your eye level and the screen is tilted slightly upward by about 10-15 degrees.
- Reference Materials– if you are continually referring to a book or document while typing on the computer screen the best thing to do is to have this document held above the keyboard but below the monitor by a document holder that can sometimes attach right to the side of your computer screen. This will help your posture because you will not have to continually move your head or twist your body to look from the document to the screen and back.
- Lighthing– Windows and overhead lights can cause glare, try to position your computer screen at a place in your office to minimize this reflection if possible. Use blinds or drapes on windows and use lower watt bulbs on desk lamps that may be reflecting on the screen. If there is no way to avoid certain sources of glare, a glare filter may be available for your screen to help filter out the unwanted reflections. An anti-glare or anti-reflective coating on your eyeglass lenses can also reduce these troublesome reflections. Also, don’t forget to clean your screen so that it is free of fingerprints, dust and debri.
- Take Breaks! It is essential when using a computer for prolonged periods of time to take breaks. We have a rule that we nicknamed the “20/20” rule and it is as follows: “Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away from you.” This gives your eyes a chance to relax their focusing efforts from looking at something up close for so long and it also gives your eyes a chance to blink. Blinking rates when using a computer are dramatically reduced, I guess you could say we sort of stare at the screen. When you don’t blink, the tears that naturally coat the surface of your eyes at all times have a chance to evaporate away and your eyes in turn, get dry which can lead to that tired feeling as well as redness, burning and tearing. So, take a half a minute, three times an hour to stretch, look out of the window or down the hallway and daydream. You will come back to your work refreshed and relaxed and so will your eyes!
Technology is grand and so is free software! There is actually a free simple-to-use program for your computer out there called “Eyes Relax 0.74” that you can put on your toolbar and it pleasantly reminds you that it is time for a break. You can customize it to your preferences to schedule your breaks and reminders. Did I mention it’s free and is tested by cnet to be spyware free? Download it here.
By incorporating these simple tricks into your work station, you can do your eyes a world of good. And remember, get yearly eye exams to test your eyes to make sure you have the most accurate prescription possible and that your prescription is tailored to all of your visual needs.