What does an insurance broker, a nurse, a restaurant server, and a gas station attendant all have in common? All these professions, and more, use a computer to complete at least some of their duties. Many of us are all but glued to the computer all day long! If that’s you, you’re probably not thinking about the unhealthy link between computers and your eyes.
One of our readers, Jenny H. from Oregon, wrote us, “What ideas do you have for me – I sit behind a computer all day long!” Jenny’s question is actually one of the most common questions we get asked.
Computers and Your Eyes
In this post, we’re going to answer Jenny’s question and address all the other workers who face a similar plight. It’s all too common to experience eye strain and exhaustion from too much screen time and too little time in natural lighting. We’ve talked about this previously, but let’s go into more detail.
If your job is set in an office, you’ve likely experienced eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision. You may be suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome, which is a complex vision problem connected with staring at a computer for too long.
Let’s go over some of the symptoms of this emerging syndrome and what you should know about computers and your eyes.
Computer Vision Syndrome: The 14 Symptoms from the American Optometric Association
- Fatigued eyes
- Sensitivity to glares
- Discomfort for contact lens wearers
- Occasional blurred vision when viewing objects up-close
- Occasional blurred vision when viewing objects from afar
- Slow reaction when changing the focus of your eye
- Dry eyes
- Burning sensation in eyes
- Color perception changes
- Redness in eyes
- Tearing excessively
- Sore feeling eyes
One way to stop suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome would be to get up and walk away from your computer forever. Still reading? Right… it’s just not a viable option for most of us.
Let’s go over six practical tips for keeping your eyes healthy and more comfortable when they’re stuck staring at a computer all day long.
1. Embrace Ergonomics
Ergonomics is a popular buzz word that means being gentle on your body. From finding the right chair to the right keyboard, it’s about being comfortable. Make sure your workstation is set up in a way that’s kind to your body and your eyes.
Try repositioning your monitor to avoid uncomfortable eye movements. A viewing distance of 18-28 inches is recommended, with your computer screen positioned around 4-9 inches below your eyes (as though you are reading a book). You should be able to sit comfortably straight with your feet flat on the ground. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees and your elbows resting at 90 degrees.
2. Get Rid of Glare
Glare is a common cause of eye fatigue and strain. Your office may be harming your eyes if it’s not set up to reduce the amount of glare you encounter throughout your workday.
Whether you have a large window, a mirror, or a desk light, figure out where your glare is coming from and try to fix the problem. Try adjusting your blinds, getting a curtain, or dimming the lamp to reduce the amount of glare in your workspace.
Though you don’t want to work in the dark, increasing the amount of natural light and decreasing the brightness of artificial light will leave your eyes smiling a bit more! Move your desk or even your office (if possible) to reduce the amount of glare – get creative.
You could even think about buying a glare-reducing screen for your monitor. If you choose to, be sure to buy a screen that’s been approved by the American Optometric Association.
3. Screen Your Computer Screen
Just like books are black and white, computer screens should be too. Sadly, many of us are stuck staring at various colors all day long. We can reduce the ill-effects on our eyes of color overload by adjusting the brightness/contrast controls on our computer monitors.
Use a larger text display size if that helps you to strain less and see better. A good text display size is three times larger than the smallest text size you can read.
You may even consider upgrading to a flat-panel computer monitor. They can be less of a workout for your eyes than the older CRT computer monitors that deteriorate over time.
4. Break It Up
When you’re working on a big project, time gets away from you. You may not realize that an hour or more has gone by without taking your eyes off your computer screen.
Try the 10-10-10 Rule: for every 10 minutes of work, be sure to look away from your computer screen for at least 10 seconds at something 10 feet away.
Blink often and find objects in the room to focus on. Stare out at window or go for a walk outside. Your eyes will thank you.
5. Stay Healthy
Fast food for lunch and cookies for dinner… sound familiar? Ever forget to take your contacts out? In today’s busy world, it’s easy to forget about proper ocular health and nutrition from time to time.
You may be able to prevent some eye problems by keeping a good diet and staying properly hydrated throughout the day. Eat foods that are rich in eye-important vitamin A, like carrots, and consider supplementing if your diet is lacking.
If you wear contact lenses, consider switching to glasses when you’re behind the computer to prevent contact-related dry eyes.
6. Rest Up
Do something nice for your eyes occasionally. Try placing a cold washcloth across your eyes or even one of those flax and herb soothing eye pillows. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just unwind.
Don’t use your work breaks to catch up on emails for your weekly book club. Actually use your breaks to give yourself, and your eyes, a break.