Eye Strain Caused From Digital Instruments: How To Handle?

Gadgets are the new necessity! Here’s how you can handle the eye strain these digital instruments cause. Straight  from the desk of Dr.PremNandhini Satgunam, Associate Research Optometrist at Brien Holden Institute of Optometry and Vision Sciences, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad

In the present age, one cannot imagine life without cell phones and computers. The use of these electronic gadgets has moved on from an occupational domain towards a medium of communication between even friends and family members. These electronic gadgets thus invariably make us more visual animals, as lot of information and communication happens via reading or looking at these digital screens.

Eye StrainAs is the case with everything, moderation is the key for stress free usage of these gadgets as well. Anything in excess is definitely going to spiral down and cause eye strain and other physical ailments such as neck pain or postural problems. Children should be encouraged to spend more time in outdoor games than playing indoors with their cellphone video games. The same is also applicable for adults.

In general to avoid digital eye strain, try to limit your usage. Take frequent breaks while working on the screen and look at far away objects. Remember the 20-20-20 rule. Twenty minutes of work requires you to look at an object 20-feet away for at least 20 seconds. This change of focus at different distances will keep the eye muscles and the focusing mechanism of the eye as a flexible unit. Else, blurred or double vision will begin to occur. Remember to also blink frequently when working with digital devices. Infrequent blinking leads to burning sensation, redness of the eye and eye irritation. All this would lead to ‘dry eye’ conditions.

The external environment also plays a role to reduce the eye strain. Make sure your posture is good while using these devices. Good lighting is a must to avoid digital eye strain. Air-conditioned rooms will exacerbate the dry eye condition. Increase the font size on the screen, and do not hold the electronic gadgets at a distance closer than 30 cm. Taking the device very close to the face, stresses both the muscles of the eye and its focusing mechanism, and can later lead to serious eye problems such as spasm of near reflex.

There is relatively more research done on Computer Vision Syndrome, and some good ergonomics is established for the same. In case of cell phones and other video games usage not much is done. Longitudinal studies are yet to come out that can give us a comprehensive understanding of the potential effect of these devices on the eyes. In our institute we are increasingly seeing patients who also complain of light sensitivity in this user category.

Nothing can substitute a thorough eye examination, which is mandatory at least once a year if you are wearing spectacles or at least once in two years for others. Especially those who are above the age of 40 years should get both their refractive power and pressure of the eyes carefully checked at regular intervals. If you are specifically experiencing eye strain when working with digital gadgets get an appointment with an optometrist who can do a detailed orthoptics evaluation to diagnose the underlying problem.

In today’s electronic world, although digital eye strain is not a lasting condition but can have severe after effects. Researchers have been keen on explaining that the effects increase throughout the day while electronic usage is highest and then wane once use of digital devices is stopped. But can you stop the use of such devices in this modern world? Can you stop being indulged in the mobile phone apps and emails at work? You cannot. Digital devices serve multiple purposes and in this century we can not be expected to undo our engrossment.

These are some measures that can be adapted for safer screen viewing:

  • Glare Reduction
    Reduce the glare on your digital device and set the brightness into auto mode in order to avoid face too much glare in the dark. Control your device’s setting and change the screen’s background from bright white to cool gray.
  • Wear Device Friendly Glasses
    These glasses help the your eyes to adjust to the intermediate-distance objects such as electronic devices and this reduces the effects of eyestrain.
  • Enhance The Text Size
    Increase the size of the text while you are reading through your device’s screen. This puts less pressure on the eyes and makes reading more comfortable.
  • Screen Adjustment
    Viewing/reading through devices is unavoidable in today’s world. You will need to do it from time to time. But you can adjust the placement of the device in order for it to affect your eyes less. Place the device in front of your face and slightly below the eye level at a safe distance of one hand.
  • Dim Surrounding Lights
    The light around your device needs to be dim. It is suggested to avoid use of digital devices in direct sunlight and when indoor, the surrounding lights must be dim as compared to your device’s light.
  • Keep Your Screen Clean
    A smudge-free, dust-free screen reduces glare and makes reading comfortable.
  • Blink Often
    Blinking when using a digital device is only a way to rest your eyes. Staring at the screen for longer duration will only cause eyes to dry leading to redness and irritation.
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