With the ever-increasing use of computers in our daily lives, our eyes can suffer negative consequences. Studies have shown that eye strain and other symptoms occur in some 50-90% of people who use a computer for extended periods of time (such as those who work at a desk job).
Here are 10 tips for preventing eye strain while using a computer:
1. Get an eye exam
If you work on a computer or use it for a large part of your day, be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam. The USA’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends that those who use a computer for many hours each week should have an eye exam once each year.
When you go for your exam, tell your eye doctor how many hours you use your computer each week. Furthermore, you should measure how far away you sit from your computer screen and take the measurement with you to your appointment.
2. Be aware of lighting
Sunlight can have an adverse effect on your eyes when using a computer, so close any blinds or drapes if there’s bright sunlight flooding into the space you sit in. You can also consider turning off any harsh lighting and using a floor lamp instead. Another idea is to use lower-intensity overhead bulbs or tubes to reduce brightness.
3. Keep glare to a minimum
Glare on walls or finished surfaces, together with reflections on your computer screen, can also contribute to eye strain. If the latter is a problem, consider buying an anti-glare screen. A more drastic way of reducing glare is to paint walls in the space you use with dark-colored, matte paint.
Covering Windows will also obviously help reduce glare. If you happen to wear glasses, consider investing in some anti-reflective lenses, which will minimize light reflections when compared to regular lenses.
4. Upgrade your monitor
If you’re still using an old monitor, think about upgrading to a modern flat-panel, liquid crystal display monitor, such as those found in laptops. LCD technology is easier on the eyes and usually comes with a built-in anti-reflective surface.
Go for a monitor with a diagonal screen size of 19 inches or over if you’re using a desktop computer.
5. Adjust your display settings
Adjust your monitor’s brightness so it’s approximately as bright as the lighting in the space you use your computer in. Open a webpage with a white background to test your monitor’s brightness. If the white background looks like a light source, that means it’s too bright. If the white background seems dull and gray, that means it’s too dark. Also consider adjusting text sizes and the color contrast.
These settings can be adjusted from buttons on your monitor, in the Control Panel on a Windows computer, or in System Preferences on an Apple computer.
6. Be aware of how often you’re blinking
Blinking is a process that helps to moisten eyes, preventing them from dryness and irritation. People tend to blink one-third less frequently when using a computer, and this reduction can lead to dry eye problems, further exacerbated by the dry air that is often present in office environments (if you use a computer for work).
Ask your doctor about artificial tears to keep your eyes moist during the day.
7. Do eye exercises
One of the causes of eye strain from using a computer is focusing fatigue. To reduce the risk of tiring your eyes out, look away from your screen at least once every 20 minutes. Look at a distant object, preferably 20 feet away or over, for at least 20 seconds. This exercise, known as the 20-20-20 rule to some doctors, relaxes the focusing muscle in your eyes and can assist greatly with minimizing focusing fatigue.
8. Take an hourly break
If and when possible, take a five-minute mini-break following every hour you sit at your computer. During this time, get up and out of the seated position and move about. Stretch your arms, legs, back and neck to reduce tension and muscle fatigue.
Ask your local gym or fitness club for a series of exercises you can do during your mini-breaks.
9. Change how you sit
Sitting improperly when using your computer can also contribute to eye strain. Make sure you’re sitting at the correct height. Purchasing ergonomic furniture can also help you get your seating position right. Your eyes should be 20-24 inches from your screen, and the center of your screen should be 10-15 degrees below eye level.
10. Consider purchasing computer-specific eye wear
If you have eye glasses, get your eye doctor to modify your regular prescription to create customized computer glasses. This is especially handy if you wear bifocal or progressive lenses, because they are not optimal for use at the distance you’d normally sit from your computer screen.