Digital eye strain: Causes and cures

The average person spends over nine hours a day looking at electronic screens. Devices like cell phones, laptops, gaming systems, and televisions are all around us every day, and are being used at an ever increasing rate, especially by the younger generations. These devices have made our lives much easier and more convenient, but such frequent use of electronic screens had led to the unfortunate side effect of digital eye strain. Digital eye strain can cause permanent damage after a prolonged period, so it is good to know how to prevent it.

According to a report from the Vision Council, a nonprofit organization advocating for the optical industry, “…The percentage of adults spending 10 or more hours in front of screens rose 4 percent in the last year.” Also according to the report,  nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of the growing use of these devices, and that young adults seem more susceptible than those from the older generations, with nearly 45% more reported cases in adults aged 18 to 34. Those with prescription eye wear can also be more susceptible, as the near or far sighted eye wear is not designed to bring computer screens, which are generally mid range, into focus.

College students are particularly susceptible to digital eye strain, as they use their laptops, televisions, phones and game consoles frequently and are generally left unchecked. Studying heavily rely on the use of these devices which college will exacerbate especially during Midterm and Finals week. On top of headaches, students will also experience poor posture.

When asked about their habits when using electronics, several students claimed they had little idea that their were habits were bad and often saw symptoms of Digital Eye Strain. “I tend to slouch a lot when I’m on my laptop, or playing games. I tend to avoid using my desk too since it isn’t usually very comfortable.” explains Marist Senior Jason Parraga, “I definitely get headaches sometimes, when I’m playing games on my laptop. Usually after playing for a while, or late at night though.” Many students are unaware that these symptoms are anything serious, and just attribute them to fatigue or stress, but if you don’t take proper care to protect your eyes this strain can cause permanent damage to your eyes.

The common symptoms of eye strain caused by electronic screens are:

  • dry eyes
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • soreness

There are a few different factors that cause Digital Eye Strain to develop, according to SUNY College of Optometry graduate student Kerri Norris. One factor that leads to Digital Eye Strain is the posture you have while using electronics. “Always be sure to have adequate space between your eyes and the screen, at least 20-40 inches for a computer and about half of that for a phone or other handheld. The main thing that causes your eyes to get fatigued is the specific light spectrum from electronic monitors, which can damage retinas after prolonged exposure. Good sitting posture and constant blinking to keep your eyes from getting dry can go a long way in preventing eye strain.” Other factors that can cause eye strain include how long you look at the screen, and how many different screens you look at per day.

A diagram of good phone posture. Photo courtesy of The Vision Council

A diagram of good phone posture. Photo courtesy of The Vision Council

A diagram of good computer posture. Photo courtesy of The Vision Council

A diagram of good computer posture. Photo courtesy of The Vision Council

There are a few ways to prevent eye strain. The best ways to prevent eye strain are to have good posture, keeping the screen a good distance away, and blink often. Also, follow the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from the screen and look at something 20 feet away.” This helps rest your eyes and keep them from constant straining and focusing, and also help your eyes start to recover from the light emissions from the screens. Other things to be aware of are the amount of ambient light around you while using electronic screens. Too much light can make it harder to see and make you have to focus more to see the screen, your screen should be one of the brighter things in the room.

Other helpful things to prevent Digital Eye Strain include a light filter on your screens. Many web browsers have extensions that will automatically adjust the screen tint to aid in eye relief. Also, programs like Flux, and many apps in mobile phone app stores can allow your devices to automatically adjust as well. Similar filters are available as screens or glasses that help filter out the harmful spectrum of light emitted by digital screens.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s