We are a digital people. Now more than ever we spend our days viewing computer screens and digital devices. Age no longer matters, as people young and old become more and more dependent on computers for daily life. This can mean we are much more efficient. Now work can happen anytime and anywhere. Learning isn’t just in classrooms anymore. We stay connected 24/7. But it also means our eyes and vision can suffer with digital eye strain.
Digital eye strain is a real thing and something you might be hearing a lot about right now. What does it really mean though, why does it happen, and what can we do about it?
Eye strain, eye fatigue, blurry vision, headaches and dry eye can all be symptoms of digital eye strain. They all can happen with in an increase in demand on the visual system with an increase in digital device use.
For near work, like reading or looking at a computer screen or phone, our eyes have to adapt to let us see clearly. This change in the eye muscles allow us to see focused and single, instead of blurry with double vision. It takes a lot of effort for our eyes to hold in this position and focus long term. When we do it for many hours a day the muscles that make it possible become tired and sometimes even sore, causing fatigue and headaches. Eventually they become so tired that they can’t function in the same way and we experience blurry vision or sometimes even double vision.
Another common symptom of digital eye strain is dry eye. When we are viewing computers and digital devices our blink rate can decrease by as much as 50-60%! Blinking maintains the surface of our eyes, keeping our eyes comfortable AND keeping our vision clear. By not blinking regularly our eyes can feel gritty and dry, as well as suffer from fluctuating vision. Even more, as the time we spend in this decreased blink rate increases the odds of chronic, or long-term, dry eye increases. The oil glands that line our eyelids release oil with every blink. Less blinking means less oil release which means the oil thickens over time. Thick oil doesn’t release well with a blink. Now we have a recipe for even more severe dry eye symptoms.
It would be nice to say, “Just spend less time on digital devices!” but let’s be realistic. Yes we can pay more attention to mindless scrolling through social media, hours of Netflix binging and too many hours of video games. Some of the time we spend on digital screens just isn’t going anywhere though. There are some things that you can do to help avoid digital eye strain.
Anytime you experience eye or vision related symptoms the first step is to see your eye doctor. They will discuss your computer habits, run tests to see if there is an underlying vision issue, and give you strategies for reducing your symptoms leaving your with happier and healthier eyes!