Our society’s use of digital screens, including cellphones, computer screens, and tablets, has drastically increased in the past decade. Many people who regularly use digital screens for an extended period of time can agree that increased screen time leads to computer-related eye problems. Symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, dryness and irritation, and even double vision may suggest the presence of a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS. Whether computer vision syndrome is a mild inconvenience or a significant burden in your day-to-day life, there are ways to protect your eyes from the symptoms of this condition.
Diagnosing Computer Vision Syndrome
The symptoms of computer vision syndrome may appear suddenly, but more commonly they gradually appear after long-term extended use of digital screens. The most common symptoms include mild dryness or irritation, occasional blurry vision, and eye strain. More severe cases of CVS may lead to symptoms including headaches or migraines, double vision, or even the development of a sleep disorder. Though most people notice these symptoms while they are using their digital screens, computer vision syndrome can cause problems even after computer use has stopped. If you think you may be affected by computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain, take note of when your symptoms are occurring, and talk to your eye doctor about what you are noticing. Your doctor may suggest one of the following to help address your symptoms of CVS.
Treating Computer-Related Dry Eye
Dry, irritated eyes are one of the most common symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. This is due to the fact that when we are viewing digital screens, our blink rate drastically decreases to about a third the normal amount, meaning the front surface of our eyes are more susceptible to drying out. For those with pre-existing Dry Eye Disease, the use of digital screens can exacerbate symptoms, making screen-time particularly uncomfortable. To address these symptoms, your doctor will likely recommend frequent use of artificial tears, especially while you are using the computer. These lubricating drops will help keep the eye more comfortable and reduce the irritation associated with a low blink rate. Beyond using artificial tears, try to remind yourself to maintain a normal blink rate.
Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
Many of the other symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome are directly related to the stress placed on the focusing system of the eye during the extended use of digital screens. Symptoms such as headaches, eye fatigue, and occasional double vision can be signs that your focusing system is being over-worked. To address these symptoms, eye care professionals recommend following the 20-20-20 rule. This rule states that every 20 minutes during computer use, you should view an object that is roughly 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. By looking in the distance, you give the focusing system of the eye a brief rest and the focusing muscle is allowed to relax. This break in screen time is also a good opportunity to remind yourself to blink, further preventing computer-related dryness.
Ask About Computer Glasses
If long hours using digital screens is unavoidable, specialized computer glasses may help reduce some of the symptoms associated with CVS. These glasses, prescribed by your eye doctor, can be made with a personalized computer prescription that takes into account your regular glasses prescription and the distance of your computer screen, and can significantly reduce eye strain and fatigue. They can also be made using special lens options, such as an anti-reflective coating or blue-blocking lenses, to further reduce screen-related eye strain.