Digital Eye Strain
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Whitby & Co. - Fleet Street Clinic

Preventing Digital Eye Strain

Our lives have been transformed by the digital revolution over the past decade, and as a consequence of these changes, the demands on our eyes have never been greater.

Not so long ago, staring at a low-resolution cathode ray tube computer monitor was the main optical challenge of the working day. Its working distance was neither near nor far, so a special “intermediate” prescription was sometimes necessary.

Today, our optical requirements are more complex. We use laptops, desktop computers, tablets, e-readers, smartphones and wearable tech. We focus near, far, and at every distance in between, at every viewing angle, and often for extended periods of time. No wonder our eyes are feeling the strain!

Did you know?

  • Office-based workers check their emails an average of 77 times a day
  • The average person checks their phone 85 times a day
  • Many people spend 10 hours or more a day looking at digital displays, often without adequate breaks
  • With increasing access to digital entertainment, social media and electronic gaming, our “screen time” is only likely to increase
  • 45% of young people continue to check their mobile phones after going to bed
  • 1 in 10 young people check mobile phones for notifications at least 10 times during the night

What eye problems does this cause?

Higher resolution displays and smaller portable devices mean smaller font sizes and closer viewing distances – stressing the muscles around our eyes that control their ability to converge, and also the tiny muscles within the eye that control our ability to focus. This causes eyestrain, fatigue, discomfort, and sometimes headache. As we age, the challenges increase: the eye’s ability to focus at close distances declines (which is why most people need reading glasses when they pass the age of 45).

Compared with studying hard copy text, people using digital displays have markedly reduced blink patterns. The moisture film that covers the front surface of our eyes dries out, resulting in soreness, burning, a gritty sensation, redness, itchiness and irritation, sometimes with longer-term effects. The problem is even worse for contact lens wearers, and in dry, air-conditioned environments, and in special situations such as when you are flying.

(Using devices at night can also result in fatigue and sleep disturbance – bright displays during the night have a disruptive effect on the “body clock”.)

Collectively, these problems are termed “computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eyestrain.

Digital eye strain has a significant impact both on comfort, work performance and productivity, and around 40% of adults and up to 80% of teenagers report significant visual symptoms both during and immediately after using digital displays.

What makes these problems more common?

A combination of factors can make digital eyestrain more likely and more severe:

  • Prolonged periods of use
  • Close proximity to the screen
  • Increased frequency of use
  • The degree of exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) or blue light emitted

How Can You Avoid Digital Eye Strain?

  • Have an eye examination every year to prevent or treat digital eyestrain issues.
  • Ensure you have correct lighting and reduce glare.
  • Often bright light and glare or reflections from screens and walls exacerbate eyestrain.
  • Try to use ambient lighting and consider an anti-glare screen or computer hood on your devices.
  • Consider subtle changes such as painting white walls a darker shade with a matte finish.
  • Check your display. The ideal is an LCD flat panel display with an anti-reflective surface over a 19” screen. Select one with the highest resolution available.
  • Fine-tune your computer display settings.
  • Adjust the brightness of the display to a similar brightness of your workstation.
  • Check the text size is comfortable
  • Adjust the contrast – black on white is considered best.
  • When working with electronic devices people naturally tend to blink less often, leading to dryness and soreness. Blink frequently to moisten and lubricate your eyes, to prevent discomfort. Use comfort drops if necessary.
  • Avoid eye fatigue. Eyes get tired from focusing continuously at screens. To relax the muscle inside your eye, try the “20-20-20 rule”. Every 20 minutes gaze into the distance (more than 20 feet away) for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Have regular breaks. Frequent breaks away from electronic devices reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome and ease neck, shoulder and back tension.
  • Re design your workstation. If possible, acquire ergonomic furniture to position your body and computer screen 20 to 24 inches apart. Your screen should ideally be 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable placement of your head and neck.
  • Use the correct eyewear for the task in hand. You may need a special pair of “computer glasses” – with the correct prescription for your most comfortable working distance.
  • If you wear glasses, make sure your lenses have an anti-reflective (AR) coating. This coating minimises brightness, glare, blurriness and pixelation by reducing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your eyeglass lenses. They should also have a hard coat layer to improve their longevity and prevent tiny scratches occurring that impair performance over time. (At Whitby & Co, all our glasses have these coatings.)

Preventative Eye Care

Regular, preventive eye care is now more important than ever. It is essential to obtain a highly accurate prescription, with well-fitting spectacles or contact lenses, if your vision needs correction. Make sure you have access to experienced eye care professionals whenever you need advice or adjustments.

Whitby & Co are experts in looking after individuals with demanding optical requirements. We can provide the individual care and tech-support everyone should have, to overcome the optical challenges of daily life.

Looking after your eyes

An eye examination is a vital part of everyone’s regular health care. For a routine eye check up, or if you have any eye problems or concerns about the health of your eyes, please call Whitby & Co on 020 7353 4455 email us at or book online here.

Whitby & Co : 29 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AA


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