At one time or another, most of us have dealt with eye strain. The splitting headaches, blurred vision, and shoulder tension… it’s enough to completely derail your day. Nearly 90% of people who work with computers have dealt with eye strain in some form. But now that nearly everyone has a smartphone or other type of mobile device, we’re beginning to see eye strain in more than just adults in the work place. Children and teenagers have also begun to experience some symptoms.
But let’s start at the beginning…
What exactly is eye strain?
“Eye strain” is used as a general phrase to describe the symptoms that people feel from overusing and exhausting their eyes. You usually experience eye strain when the light from your computer monitor (or mobile device) is clashing with another light source – like overhead lights or the sun. The clashing of lights causes the image on your screen to be less visible. So, in order to see the image clearly, we force or strain our eyes to focus on the screen more. It’s when we focus our eyes for too long like this when the classic symptoms of eye strain are felt.
Eye strain symptoms
• Blurred vision
• Light sensitivity
• Back and shoulder tension
• Sore, tired, and/or dry eyes
Eye strain can pull you into a vicious cycle. You strain your eyes when the screen becomes less visible, so to see the screen better… you strain your eyes, which only makes it harder to see as the symptoms worsen. Sometimes, eye strain can be so bad that it hurts the quality of your work and can be the cause of some serious mental stress.
So what can you do if you start straining your eyes? The key lies in prevention. So here are some tips on how to prevent eyestrain.
#1. Get smarter with your light sources.
Don’t stare at the screen for a long time in overhead, fluorescent lighting. Even though it’s the light choice favored by nearly every office building in existence, overhead fluorescent lights are notorious for clashing with light from screens.
If you can, your main light source should be natural light. Make sure that the natural light is perpendicular to your screen and at an angle that won’t cause glare.
Sounds simple enough… but you’d be surprised how seldom we blink when we’re really focused on something. Blinking helps keeps our eyes moisturized, which helps prevent eye strain. Humans on average blink 18 times per minute. But if we’re focused and zeroed in on a screen, we may blink half as much.
When you stare into a light source like a screen without blinking normally for several hours a day, it’s almost like staring directly into an exposed light bulb. The difference is that the painful effects of that are spread out and gradually felt over the course of the day and not all once.
#3. Eat plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids
You’ve probably heard about omega-3s for heart health, but did you know they may also be great for our eyes? Some recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids could help our eyes stay moisturized. And moisturized eyes are better protected from eye strain.
Omega-3s can be found in many foods like tuna, salmon, and mackerel. But not everyone likes fish, so it may be hard to get these types of omega-3s. That’s why fish oil supplements can be a quick, convenient, and helpful alternative.
#4. The 20-20-20 Rule
I think this little handy tool may have saved my eyes. One of the best ways to prevent eye strain is to just look away from the screen and give your eyes a break. This is where the 20-20-20 rule comes in.
The way it works: every 20 minutes, look 20 ft. away from your screen for at least 20 seconds. The 20-20-20 rule gives your eyes a chance to refresh themselves by focusing on something far away.
#5. Don’t Sit Too Close To The Screen
Sometimes when you’re really in the zone, it’s hard not to scoot closer and closer to the computer screen. The problem is that this is really stressful for your eyes (especially if you’re not blinking). That’s why the experts recommend staying between 18 to 30 inches away from your compute monitor to help prevent eye strain.
Now, if you don’t feel like getting out the measuring tape, the space between your eyes and the monitor should be able the length of your arm – shoulder to fingertip. So, sit normally in your chair and extend your arm out. If your hand is hitting your monitor, it may be too close to be healthy for your eyes.
You’re never alone in battling to prevent eye strain! Be sure to retweet/share these quick and easy tips.