Computer Eye Strain

Computer Eye Strain Specialist
The display screens of contemporary electronics create a major change in the way we use our eyes. Generically labeled “computer eye strain,” studies show that video games and cell phones may reduce tear production, resulting in a loss in your vision sharpness. Dr. Arthur Charap of Inland Empire Dry Eye Center in Corona, California, can help you manage eye problems stemming from computer eye strain.

Computer Eye Strain Q & A

 

How does viewing electronic screens affect my eyes?

Many people who work at computers suffer from some degree of digital eye strain, often viewing one screen for over 10 hours a day. While digital screen quality continues to improve, any gains made from increased resolution and reduced glare are lost when you overuse these screens.

Over 40% of adults have jobs that require prolonged use of digital screens, causing digital eye strain to overtake carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis as the most common repetitive strain injury in the workplace.

Viewing digital screens is hard to avoid. The related eye strain can cause redness, dryness, blurry vision, headaches, and musculoskeletal pain from poor posture. Among the factors contributing to eye strain is the tendency for many people to blink less while viewing digital screens.

Every blink refreshes the three-layered tear coating over the cornea of the eye. With reduced blinking, the eye’s natural protective barrier may dry out. There is evidence, too, that prolonged electronic device use changes the consistency of the eye’s tear film. When the balance of the layers of the tear film changes, eye strain may result in long-term complications.

Having worked for a company that develops and sells artificial tears ,I am aware of what the FDA requires to be in any reusable eye drop formulation. Not only must the drop be sterile, it must also be self sterilizing. In other words, artificial tears must contain a chemical that sterilizes any possible contaminant that might get into the bottle.

In addition, the bottle must contain preservatives which prevent the components of the tear solution from degrading over the life of the product. If you read the the label on a bottle of preserved tears, which are any tears that are reusable, you will often find the term BAK, which stands for Benzalkonium Chloride. BAK is essentially highly-diluted Lysol. BAK plus other preservatives do not in any way help dry eyes, and when used frequently, they increase symptoms -- especially irritation.

It is for this reason that we recommend that frequent users of artificial tears use single use, non-preserved tears. They are definitely more expensive, but in some cases they are essential. We try to keep a list of local prices at Walmart and Costco as well as online suppliers. Buying in volume online is usually the cheapest way to purchase non-preserved tears at a close to reasonable price.

Most name brand artificial tears do a good job. They vary in viscosity (thickness) and saline (salt) content. We try to keep a variety of samples so you can “try before you buy.” In my personal experience, the tear that feels the best is the best. So don’t be fooled by labels and claims. I have tried them all, and what one patient loves another may hate.

Are there long-term complications from viewing computer screens?

Generally, digital eye strain isn’t a lasting condition. When you move away from digital devices, the symptoms typically subside. However, it’s harder to move away from these devices and the effects of the associated eye strain.

For example, if you spend the day entering or analyzing data on a computer, you may also check social media before work, during breaks, and after work. You may use electronic health monitors for your post-office workout, then use a tablet to access recipes while preparing dinner. Relaxing downtime could include reading an e-book, watching television, or surfing the net.

Recent studies have shown that children who use a digital device in the school environment have alterations in their tear production and the tear components. Studies are now in the process of tracking these children to see if they these changes persist into adulthood.

If you wear “computer glasses, which are simply reading glasses set to focus at a longer distance. Make sure you use the lowest power that allows you to see comfortably. Using higher power glasses than necessary forces you to work closer to the screen and has less depth of focus[ less range in which the glasses produce a clear image]. Patients always want “stronger” glasses not realizing that stronger glasses may magnify an image but also force you to sit closer to the screen and any small movement closer or nearer to the screen blurs the image.

What can I do to avoid computer eye strain?

If you wear “computer glasses,  which are simply reading glasses set to focus at a longer distance. Make sure you use the lowest power that allows you to see comfortably. Using higher power glasses than necessary forces you to work closer to the screen and has less depth of focus[ less range in which the glasses produce a clear image]. Patients always want “stronger” glasses not realizing that stronger glasses may magnify an image but also force you to sit closer to the screen and any small movement closer or nearer to the screen blurs the image.

If you don’t have astigmatism and are neither nearsighted or farsighted, inexpensive OTC glasses can work fine as long the the PD[interpupillary distance, better understood as the space between your eyes which narrows for near vision] matches your glasses Use a chair that encourages proper posture and keep monitors slightly below your eye height. New monitors are easier to view and produce less strain that older styles, so update your monitor regularly. Use the 20-20-20-20 rule: stay at least 20 inches from your monitor, and take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus on something at least 20 feet away. To avoid poor blinking habits, you can also do blinking exercises. Learn how to do blinking exercises here and from TearWell here

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