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Prevent and Relieve Digital Eye Strain: Tips for All Ages

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Author : Dr Deepak Garg
Laptop eye strain

With each passing year, our dependency on gadgets is constantly increasing. Earlier, computer use was limited to corporate offices. Now, it has found its way to every desk, be it a school-going child or someone running their own business. Add to this the constant use of other devices like phones and tablets, and we are constantly moving from screen to screen!

While long-term gadget use has not been linked to any permanent eye damage, using them incorrectly can cause discomfort to the eyes and body. This encompasses the condition known as Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome, which includes symptoms of headaches, eye strain, blurry vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Though these are not permanent, they can cause a lot of discomfort and affect our productivity. Luckily, there are effective ways to prevent and treat all of these issues, which will work well for all age groups. So whether you are doing your schoolwork, an adult actively working, or retired and enjoy watching your shows, these tips will work for everyone.

Of course, spending more time in front of screens has been linked to the development and progression of myopia in kids. To read more about myopia, click here.

The points mentioned below will help you understand how excessive screen time affects us, which gadgets are advisable and which should be avoided, and how best to work so that it doesn’t affect our eyes and muscles:

  1. While working at a screen, our eye muscles are under more strain to do continuous near work. An easy rule to remember is the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break from your screen for 20 seconds, and focus on something 20 feet away. This could be as simple as looking away from your screen to look at a wall or out of the window. This simple exercise gives a much-needed break to our overworked eye muscles and can make a lot of difference in eye strain.
  2. Continuously looking at a screen can cause dry eyes – the eyes burn, feel heavy, tired, itchy, and become red, with reflex watering. As we focus on the screen, we tend to blink less often. As the eyes stay open more, the tears tend to evaporate faster, and the eyes become dry. We need to make a conscious effort to blink more often, as this spreads the tears over our eyes and keeps them moist.
  3. If your eyes feel very dry, you can safely use lubricating eye drops. A number of different drops are available in the market and should be used 4-6 times a day to have the best effect. These drops are absolutely safe, and a lot of them are preservative-free, having no side effects and can be used in both adults and children. You can contact your eye doctor to discuss the same.
  4. Avoid constantly touching or rubbing your eyes as this can introduce infection into the eye and cause repeated styes.
  5. Ensure that you are having a healthy diet, hydrating yourself with fluids, and sleeping well.
  6. If you are getting too many headaches, check that your glasses prescription is up to date. Wearing the wrong power, or not wearing glasses when you need them, can definitely make the eye strain and headache worse. Especially if you are above 40 and have reading glasses, get the correct number for your computer work. This will be slightly different from your reading glasses because of a different distance, and you can either keep a separate pair or get progressive glasses for the same. Please discuss this with your eye doctor, as wearing the right prescription will make a big difference in your eye strain and headaches.
  7. Ensure the correct posture – Always work at a table and chair, making sure that the top of the screen is at eye level. Having to constantly look up or down at a screen is going to give you neck and shoulder pains.
  8. The device you work on should be at least 1.5-2 feet away, about an arm’s length. The font size should be large enough to read and make sure you’re not bending forward or straining your eyes to read.
  9. Also, while watching your shows, the size and distance of the screen matter, which is why watching on a TV is better than an iPad, and an iPad is better than a phone. The larger the screen and the further away it is, the better. The habit of young kids putting their heads into the phones or iPads must be discouraged, as this is very bad for their eye health and vision.
  10. If you are working in an AC room, readjust the AC draft so that it doesn’t come straight on your face, as this can worsen dry eyes.
  11. Ensure that the room you are working in is well-lit. There should not be too much difference between the screen brightness and the room lighting. At the same time, ensure that there is no glare coming from the screen. Sometimes, light coming in from a window or an overhead light bulb can reflect onto the screen and cause glare, which can worsen the eye strain.
  12. For those who work or watch shows late into the night, it is very important to understand the effect this has. Firstly, the blue light coming from screens interferes with the production of sleep hormone and keeps us alert and awake, making it more difficult to fall asleep afterward. It is very important to use either night mode or some blue light filtering app on your device. This changes the screen colors from blue to warmer hues, which will not affect our sleep cycle. Also, a very bright screen in a dark room can definitely worsen eye strain, so either keep the room lit or use night mode to reduce the contrast.

Key Tips to Prevent Digital Eye Strain in Children:

  1. If they have a lot of eye strain, get their vision checked.
  2. Teach them to consciously blink and keep them well hydrated.
  3. Lubricating drops can be safely used.
  4. Sometimes, in young kids, dryness or itching can manifest just as frequent blinking of eyes.
  5. Make sure they don’t keep rubbing their eyes. This can be counterproductive.
  6. There is definite evidence to show that kids spending more time indoors in front of a screen have a higher chance of developing nearsightedness (myopia), and the myopia tends to progress faster. Spending more time outdoors is shown to be protective against myopia.

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