Few of us are immune to the use—if not compulsion—of our devices. Whether you perform most of your tasks on your laptop, text with friends and clients on your iPhone, or while away your hours off playing Scrabble online or reading on your Kindle, you’re likely acutely aware that we’re squarely in the center of the Digital Age.
While this is associated with a plethora of both pluses and minuses, one of its disadvantages is that it can result in computer vision syndrome—a condition that can be as exasperating as it is uncomfortable.
What is computer vision syndrome—and how can you manage it?
CVD, as it’s called, or “digital eyestrain,” is defined by a number of symptoms related to your vision and the overall well-being of your eyes. Given that many Americans spend a significant amount of time on their electronics—with a study from eMarketer revealing that we absorb an average of eight hours daily of digital content—it makes perfect sense that our peepers would take the brunt of our utilization of electronics.
Computer vision syndrome is generally broken down into three categories of symptoms. Ocular symptoms, to start, are characterized by burning, painful dryness and extreme watering. General vision effects, meanwhile, include an inability to properly focus, double vision and difficult seeing things at close range. Extraocular symptoms speak to issues that occur outside the eye, from back and neck strain to tight muscles.
Sound, well, achingly familiar? Despite the prevalence of computer vision syndrome—and the unpleasantness that often comes with it—do know that it doesn’t cause permanent damage. It can, however, render your working days long and discomfiting, or make your hours on Apple TV or reading off your iPad much less enjoyable. Here’s how to mitigate its side effects.
Coping with computer vision syndrome
We’d be hard pressed to not have gotten so immersed in a project that we failed to rise from our chair and the device in front of us for hours. And yet, experts time and again underline the importance of giving your eyes a break. Their suggestion? Every 20 minutes, break from looking at your screen to peer at something in the distance for 20 seconds. (To keep yourself on track with this, consider using the Tomato Timer, or setting a timer on your—rather ironically—device.) Every four hours of usage, take a 15 minute break to rest your eyes (and, I may add, your brain). This will allow your eyes to adjust and resume its natural blinking, which is often impacted by using devices.
Don blue light glasses
…and I don’t mean a pair of Pradas with blue rims. Rather, blue light glasses, which were designed to decrease the effects of blue light emitted from electronic devices. This is vital, as blue light contributes to headaches, migraines, interrupted natural melatonin production (which can result in insomnia), and, yes, computer vision syndrome. Available in a range of styles and prices, they have the potential to ease the tearing and pain that arrives with digital eyestrain.
Aim for functional lighting
Competing with light from another source may drive—and exacerbate—the symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Reduce the light in your environment, or use a screen protector.
Perfect your posture
View your device at too high of a position and you’ll practically ask for digital eyestrain. Why? Because when your eyes are open all the way for persistent periods of time, they’re exposed more to evaporation. Additionally, you may not blink as frequently, which is crucial for maintaining eye health. Your screen should also be placed roughly an arm’s length away, while your own posture should be upright in an ergonomic chair. (Meaning, no slumping, which only aggravates neck, shoulder and back pain.)
Gulp it down
Studies show that dehydration can worsen computer vision syndrome—and this may be more ubiquitous among those who must wear a mask at work or school, which may prevent them from drinking often. Aim for eight hours of water per day; in other words, keep that reusable water bottle on your desk.
Lubricate your orbs
Eye lubricating drops—such as Simple Truth’s Organic Eye Lubricant—can offer your dry, computer-weary eyes terrific relief.
Consider a supplement
An herbal supplement for digital eyestrain? Absolutely. Antioxidants organically support eye health and reduce CVD’s effects. Two to try: lutein and zeaxanthin. The latter boasts powerful cartenoids that not only guard against inflammation but also shield eyes from the harmful blue glare we just discussed. And most of all, know that as addictive as our devices may be, there’s nothing more beautiful—or healing—than nature.