Step away from the screen

Published 7:22 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

“My eyes hurt.”

If you’re a regular user of smartphones, tablets and computers, this might be a phrase that has become a part of your vocabulary in the past 10 years. There’s no question that these devices have become more a part of our lives than ever, and as they make life more convenient in some ways, questions linger about the long-term effects overuse can have on our health.

When talking about screens and eyesight, there’s even an established diagnosis to describe the issues that can arise from staring at a screen for too long. According to the American Optometric Association, Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain can cause eye discomfort and a variety of vision problems. The level of discomfort tends to increase with the amount of screen use.

According to the AOA, the most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome are:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms may be caused by:

  • Poor lighting
  • Glare on a digital screen
  • Improper viewing distances
  • Poor seating posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems

So what can you do about it? The AOA estimates the average office worker spends as much as seven hours a day looking at a computer screen, not to mention the time spent with screens at home. In some cases, staring at a screen is a necessary evil to get the job done.

For one, the AOA recommends practicing something called the 20-20-20 rule, which involves looking away from the screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away. Further, the group recommends taking a 15-minute break from the computer after two hours of continuous use.

In addition, specialized glasses are available for computer viewing. For handheld devices, blue light filters usually come standard and can remove some of the light that causes eyestrain when looking at those devices.

Of course, if all else fails, there’s always one failsafe, old-fashioned solution — turn off the screen and go outside.