In an era where technology factors so prominently into every area of our lives, it’s become common to spend a significant portion of a day looking at our digital devices. But extended screen time often leads to various degrees of eye strain, sometimes severe enough to warrant treatment.  

Digital eye strain can be described as the temporary discomfort that can follow prolonged viewing (more than 2 hours) of uninterrupted screen time. Extensive use of electronic devices such as televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, and even gaming systems can all contribute to digital eye strain. Symptoms may include:

  • Red, dry or irritated eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye fatigue
  • Back, neck and shoulder pain
  • Headaches

Whether your screen time is related to your work demands, your  personal digital browsing habits, or simply your love of gaming, this screen time can take a toll on your eyes (not to mention the rest of your body). Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize digital eye strain, along with the head, neck, shoulder, and back pain that often accompany it.   

Adjust your devices                          

  • Keep your distance. Your computer screen should be at least 25 inches from your eyes, or an arm’s length away.
  • Adjust your screen settings.
    • Check your screen’s brightness and contrast. Make sure it’s not any lighter or darker than your surroundings.
    • Increase the size of your text so that you’re not squinting.
  • Reduce any glare by using a matte screen filter.

Tips for computer work

  • Blink often to help refresh and moisten your eyes.
  • Limit screen time and make sure to take breaks to help rest your eyes.
    • Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use artificial tears. These eye drops can help prevent and relieve dry eyes.

Of course, extended screen time can not only negatively affect your eyes and physical health, it can also have adverse consequences for your mental health and overall emotional wellbeing. In fact, it can even restructure your brain matter.

According to Psychology Today, extended screen time can become a bona fide addictionand is linked with higher rates of depression than seen in those who spend less time in front of their digital devices.

If you find that your screen time is becoming compulsive (if it’s routinely reducing the time you should be spending working, attending to daily tasks, getting enough exercise, and connecting in person with those you love), it’s time to step back and take inventory of where your priorities really lie.

When you realize there’s a gap between how you know you should be spending your time and how you’re actually spending it, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge the ways that screen time is an understandable escape, but one you don’t want to rule your life.

And rather than trying to quit your excess screen time “cold turkey” (which can leave you feeling deprived and therefore fueling the cycle of addiction), set small, achievable goals to help you move in a new direction. (Like, having tech-free dinners with friends or family, keeping your phone in another room while you sleep, or adding an extra 15 minutes of exercise for every hour you spend on your device.)

At Eyecare 20/20, we’re delighted to be your one-stop, state-of-the-art center for all your vision health needs. From advanced treatments to ease digital eye strain, to protective and corrective eyewear prescriptions, to leading-edge LASIK and cataract surgery, we’re here to help! Reach out to us today and see why we’re New Jersey’s friendliest eye care center!                                                

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