Aspirus Health offers tips for easing eye strain from too much screen time

As home and office space merged during the pandemic, many people said they spent more time in front of screens and suffered because of it. They complained of eye strain, headaches and dry eye, and worried they might be doing permanent damage to their vision. Now comes a survey suggesting two-thirds of businesses expect their temporary work-from-home policies will become permanent post-pandemic.

Digital eye strain is a group of eye problems that can happen after staring at a screen for too long. The symptoms include blurry vision, headaches and tired, dry eyes. It happens because we blink less often when using screens. Blinking is important because it keeps the surface of the eye moisturized. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work—activities done at a short working distance—also cause eye strain.

“You’ve probably heard that looking at a computer, smartphone or tablet for long periods of time will permanently damage your eyes,” said Dustin Wasylik, DO, ophthalmologist for Aspirus Health. “It’s simply not true, but you will probably notice uncomfortable consequences from staring at a screen too long.”

In honor of March’s designation as Workplace Eye Wellness Month, Aspirus Health along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology are sharing the following tips:

  1. Make taking breaks a habit. Practicing the 20-20-20 rule will help you remember to blink. Set a timer on your phone or watch to remind you to look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This can be as simple as looking away from your computer screen or out the window. If you’re not in the middle of a Zoom call, you can also just shut your eyes for 20 seconds.
  2. Practice eye ergonomics. Sit 18 to 25 inches away from your computer screen, about arm’s length. Adjust screen brightness and contrast so it feels comfortable. Also, position the screen so your eyes gaze slightly downward rather than straight ahead or up.
  3. Use artificial tears. Eye drops will help keep your eyes moist and relieve the discomfort of dry eye. These can be bought over the counter without a prescription.
  4. Consider a humidifier. A humidifier will add moisture to the air and minimize dry eye. This is especially good for people who live in cold areas and use heaters often.
  5. Consider computer glasses. If you have trouble seeing your screen, ask your doctor about computer glasses. These progressive lenses are specifically designed for focusing on computer screens, which are usually positioned about 20 to 26 inches away from the face.
  6. Skip the blue light-blocking glasses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend blue light-blocking glasses because there is no scientific evidence blue light coming from a computer screen causes digital eye strain or damages the eye.
  7. Reduce the glare. The screens on today’s digital devices often have a lot of glare. Try using a matte screen filter to cut glare. Check with your computer store or cell phone store to see what they can provide.

If symptoms continue after trying these tips, see your ophthalmologist. For more information on eye health and the Aspirus Eye Center in Ironwood, visit