Between televisions, computer monitors, and smartphones, you may feel like your eyes dart from screen to screen all day long. Increased screen exposure can lead to digital eyestrain, a real health condition caused by prolonged use of devices.
Common symptoms of digital eyestrain include headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, and red, dry, itchy eyes. Digital eyestrain can make you feel fatigued and uncomfortable and affect your ability to focus. Existing vision problems and poor posture may make symptoms worse.
Screens are unavoidable, but there are certain behaviors that can help alleviate eyestrain. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break. If you’re working at a computer, adjust your monitor so that it is at least 2 feet away from you. Watching a bright screen in a dimly lit room can be hard on your eyes; be sure to match the brightness of your screen with the light level of the room. While you may not realize it, you blink less when viewing a screen. Remind yourself often to blink at a normal rate.
It may seem silly to exercise your eyes, but it can help relieve symptoms and strengthen your eye muscles. Slowly trace an imaginary sideways figure-eight a few times in each direction. Roll your eyes slowly in a clockwise motion, followed by counterclockwise. Alternate looking at something near to you and something far away several times. You can repeat these exercises throughout the day for the greatest benefit.
Increased screen time for kids during the summer months can take a toll on their eyesight. Kids should take screen breaks often and can benefit from the aforementioned eye exercises. There are even apps available to help track and limit screen time across devices.
Finally, if you’re struggling with severe eye pain or something doesn’t feel right, visit an eye doctor. They can check your vision and look for serious diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Make it a good month!
Todd Hoffman, M.D., C.P.E. is chief medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a division of Health Care Service Corp., a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.