5 min

Using Screens?Helpful Do's & Don'ts

Background

The amount of time you spend staring at a computer screen affects your eyes and can make symptoms of dry eye worse. According to various scientific studies, most of us blink less frequently (up to 66% less) when we’re concentrating or staring at a screen.

Blinking is important because it spreads your tears across the surface of your eyes creating a protective film (‘tear film’). If you blink less, this tear film evaporates, drying out your eyes.

The brightness of your screen also contributes to dryness and tired eyes. The brighter your screen, the more you may find that you’re squinting at the screen (especially towards the end of the day).

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“The 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes, at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds - this helps to reduce eye strain.”

ALEX IONIDES, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

11 things you can do to help with Digital Eye Strain and Dry Eyes
  • Looking away from your computer screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds helps to reduce strain and fatigue on your eye muscles. This is known as the 20-20-20 rule.
  • Your desktop or laptop screen should be about 50cm - 65cm from you and at a height where you’re looking at the middle of the screen. You shouldn’t have to hunch over or look up to see the screen. With mobiles and tablets, as the screen is smaller, hold them about 30cm - 50cm away. The screen should be in front of you at a height that’s comfortable - so that you’re not hunched over. If you’re going to be using a screen for an extended period of time, try switching to a larger screen. Or use a larger font. This helps make words and images easier to see and reduces the strain on your eyes.
  • Adjust the brightness of your screen so that it’s comfortable to look at. If a website has a white background that is so bright that it looks like a light source, turn down the brightness. But if the screen feels grey or dull, you may need to increase the screen brightness. If possible and you’re able to, try adjusting your screen’s refresh rate to between 70 and 85 Hz. Most computer screens will refresh at a rate of 60 Hz (which can cause flickering or rolling of the screen). This helps with eye strain if you’re going to be using the screen for a long time.
  • Make sure your screen is positioned so that there’s no glare (from light sources around you). It’s best to place your screen away from windows (i.e. not in front of a window or behind one). This reduces any light glare from the outside, which can irritate your eyes. If you have to sit next to a window, use blinds or curtains to reduce any glare. Overhead fluorescent lights create overhead glare making it difficult for your eyes to focus. Switch to table lamps or adjust the light to a lower wattage to help relax the eyes. If you use a desk lamp, make sure it isn’t pointed directly at your face, but downwards towards the floor.
  • Air conditioning and fans can quickly dry out your eyes. Use a humidifier to increase and maintain the moisture in the air. Move away from fans and vents that blow air directly in your face. Also, avoid smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke - this can irritate your eyes.
  • Eye sprays or drops help your eyes stay lubricated. You can purchase over-the-counter artificial tears that you can use when your eyes feel dry. Try and avoid eye sprays or drops that have preservatives, as they can start to irritate your eyes after a while. (Check out the MTHK Eye Spray.)
  • If you wear glasses, talk to your optician about adding an anti-reflective coating to your glasses. This coating helps minimise the glare from your computer screen and keep your eyes feeling more comfortable. (Also, please make sure you have the right prescription glasses. - otherwise, you’ll strain to focus and read the screen).
  • If you work in front of a screen all day, it’s important to take regular breaks. These breaks don’t have to be for very long. Every hour or two, just take a few minutes to walk around and stretch your legs. Not only does this help reduce eyestrain and dryness, but it can also help reduce any neck or back pain you may have.
  • Dehydration makes dry eye symptoms worse. If you’re sitting in front of a screen all day, not drinking enough water will make your eyes feel even worse. Please note that coffee has a mild diuretic effect - so if you're drinking quite a few cups a day, make sure you’re topping up with water.
  • If you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t seem to get relief, it might be time to get your eyes checked by an optician or ophthalmologist. It’s recommended that you get your eyes checked every two years.
  • Some supplements help improve your dry eye and eye strain symptoms. Check out the MTHK Eye Vitamins with maqui berry.
  • “Most of us blink up less frequently when we’re concentrating or staring at a screen. If you blink less, your protective tear film evaporates, drying out your eyes.”

    PROFESSOR DAWN SIM, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

    What is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)?

    Digital Eye Strain, also referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS, describes vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet or smartphone use.

    There's no definitive proof that digital screen use causes any long-term damage to the eyes. But regular use can lead to general discomfort.

    Symptoms include:
    (i) Blurred or double vision,
    (ii) Tired eyes,
    (iii) Dry Eye,
    (iv) Headaches and neck or back pain, and
    (v) General eye irritation.

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