What Is Eye Strain?
Your eyes are burning, itchy, and tired. It’s a common condition but rarely serious. You can take simple steps to prevent or ease this problem.
If those tactics don’t work, see your doctor. What you’re feeling could be a sign of a deeper condition that requires treatment. This is especially important if you have headaches or other problems like:
- Eye discomfort
- Double vision
- A big change in vision
What Causes It?
Anything that requires intense eye use can cause fatigue. Some of the most common are:
- Reading (especially on a screened device)
If you look at bright light or spend time in a place that’s too dim, it can also tire your peepers.
Your eyes might get tired easily if you stare for long periods at a computer, smartphone, or game console. The eye doctor might call this computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. It affects most people who use one. Some estimates say computer-related eye symptoms may be responsible for up to 10 million eye doctor visits a year. The problem is expected to grow as more people use smartphones and other handheld digital devices, which force your eyes to work harder than usual as they strain to focus on tiny words.
Digital devices may also be linked to eye fatigue because you tend to blink less often when looking at a computer screen. People usually blink about 18 times a minute. This naturally refreshes the eyes. But studies suggest that people only blink about half as often while looking at a computer or other digital device. This can result in dry, tired, itchy, and burning eyes.
Eye Strain Symptoms
Be on the lookout for:
- Sore or irritated eyes
- Trouble focusing
- Dry or watery eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back
These symptoms can lower your productivity. If you stay awake for long hours working, you can make the problem worse. Sleep refreshes your eye with essential nutrients. Lack of sleep may lead to repeated eye irritation.
How Can You Prevent Eye Strain?
Make some simple changes to these things.
Your computer screen:
- Place it 20-26 inches away from your eyes and a little below eye level.
- Regularly clean dust and fingerprints from the surface. Smudges can reduce contrast and create problems like glare and reflections.
- Choose screens that tilt and swivel.
- Use a glare filter for your screen.
Your work environment:
- Change lighting to get rid of glare and harsh reflections.
- Use an adjustable chair.
- Place a document holder next to your computer screen.
- Make sure the lighting in the room you’re in is bright enough. You don’t want your device to be brighter than the surroundings.
Your work habits:
- Try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Post a note that says "Blink" on your computer as a reminder.
- Take a longer break of about 15 minutes after every 2 hours you spend on your devices.
Your eye care routine:
- Apply a washcloth soaked in warm water to tired, dry eyes (keep your eyes closed).
- Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry.
- To help prevent dry eyes while indoors, use an air cleaner to filter dust and a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- If you wear contact lenses, give your eyes a break by wearing your glasses.
- Get regular eye exams. You might need to use a different pair of glasses when you’re working on a computer.
If you have eye fatigue or pain, see an eye doctor to make sure a deeper medical condition isn’t to blame.
If the problem doesn’t go away, make an appointment for a full eye exam. The doctor can make sure your symptoms aren’t linked to a problem like an eye muscle imbalance or dry eye. They can also tell if your glasses or contact lens prescription is up to date and good for computer use.