Blurred vision, headaches, sensitivity to light, red, twitchy eyes. At the end of a long day at work, you may think these symptoms are due to generalized fatigue, but you may very well be suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as eyestrain. A range of studies estimate that anywhere from 50 to 90% of computer users suffer from CVS, with a range of obvious negative effects on productivity and enjoyment rates.
(You try taking pleasure in your work when you can’t even see it). But not to worry. There are a number of things you can do to combat the symptoms of the vicious CVS. Here are our top 5 tips.
1. Get Your Eyes Checked
First things first: it’s important to rule out bigger problems before implementing any remedies on your own. Before you visit your eye doctor, measure the distance between your eyes and your screen. Then, give your eye professional an in-depth recounting of your daily interactions with your computer so you both know what you’re up against. As a general policy, you should make sure to get an eye exam at least once a year so you can track any decay in your vision.
2. Use the 20-20-20 Rule
Focusing too narrowly at the same distance for long periods of time is primarily what causes eyestrain. Therefore, just taking breaks that will refocus your eyes can be a big help. The 20-20-20 rule is a good guide; that’s one break every 20 minutes spent focusing at a point at least 20 feet for at least 20 seconds. Pretty simple, right? Sort of. Most of us get so caught up in our tasks, it’s difficult to remember to take a break. Use an app like Awareness or Protect Your Vision to prompt you into taking a breather at regular intervals.
3. Keep Your Eyes Lubricated
The easiest way to prevent dry eyes is simply to blink 10 times in a row, as tears are a protective coating for the eyes. That’s something we naturally forget as we focus for long periods of time on a screen. Eye drops can also be effective, as can be a warm washcloth applied to closed eyes.
4. Make Adjustments to Your Computer
Working too many hours may be our fault, but our computers certainly don’t make the task any easier. If it’s not there already, make sure to reposition the screen so that it’s an arm’s length away. If you work from a laptop or tablet, try using a stand to achieve the correct position, paired with an Goldtouch ergonomic keyboard and mouse to prevent hunching. If you notice any glare on your screen, move any nearby lights so that they reflect else where.
Brightness can also wreak havoc on both your eyes and your sleep patterns, so we suggest using the visor test to determine if yours is less than ideal. To do this, just cup your hands over your eyes in the shape of a baseball hat brim, and look at your screen. If your eyes immediately feel better, that means you’ll need to make the screen brightness either dimmer or more powerful until you’ve found your ideal spot. Lastly, try enlarging the text on the screen so you can read comfortably without having to squint.
5. Work on a Different Medium
Just because the work world has moved entirely digital, doesn’t mean you have to stick to bright screens regardless of how you feel. Don’t be afraid to print out a stack of reading materials, or see if they’re available on the Kindle, which is gentler on the eyes. Paper notes can always be scanned into a program like Evernote, so you can still manage to stay digitally organized your paper format. Or, if the analog world is just too cumbersome, consider arranging your day around your offline breaks, so eye health is built into the very structure of your day.
The world of screens is harsh on eyes, but it doesn’t have to stay that way, even if you’re working long hours. With a little discipline and a change of a few habits, you’ll kiss that blurred vision goodbye for good.
License: Royalty Free or iStock
Leah Kaminsky is a writer and the founder of Just Start Storytelling, a company that helps businesses, college and graduate school applicants and individuals tell their authentic stories online. You can follow her at @JustStartApps.