Digital Eye Strain - a modern problem - advice from Whitby & Co
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Whitby & Co. - Fleet Street Clinic

Digital Eye Strain

During the last decade, our lives have been transformed by the digital revolution. As such, the demands on our eyes have never been greater.

Not 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.

Did you know?

    • People in office-based jobs check email an average of 77 times each day
    • Many people spend 10 hours or more each 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 checking their mobile phones after going to bed
    • One 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 become older, the challenges increase: the eye’s ability to focus at close distances declines with age (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 eyestrain 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 factors make these problems more likely?

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

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

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

Whitby & Co are experienced in caring for high-performing individuals with demanding optical requirements, at the most productive times of their lives.

We know how to 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 check or if you have any concerns about the health of your eyes, please call us on 020 7353 4455 to arrange an appointment. Alternatively, you can make an appointment online.


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