Contributing Author - Dr. Bosung Kim, Optometrist in Vancouver
We are living in a digital age and screens are undeniably everywhere. From the office and our homes to our cars and our pockets, screentime is unavoidable. With the average time spent in front of a screen increasing steadily, it’s important to take steps to maintain our eye health.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital Eye Strain, also referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome, is a term used to describe the common experience of discomfort caused by prolonged use of digital screens without adhering to vision best practices.
Long work hours, increasingly computer-centric jobs, and dependence on smartphones have led to a stark increase of patients experiencing eye discomfort. In fact, up to 70% of adults experience symptoms of Digital Eye Strain, both adults and children.
Digital Eye Strain Symptoms
While overuse of digital devices hasn’t been proven to cause physical damage to the eyes, symptoms of Digital Eye Strain can become chronic and can negatively impact your quality of life, if not corrected.
If you or your family experience any of the following after using digital devices, you may be suffering from Digital Eye Strain:
- Tired eyes (strain around the eyes)
- Burning eyes
- Fluctuating vision
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Headache or migraines
- Myopia (near-sightedness)
Best Practices to Reduce Digital Eye Strain
The good news is that you can take simple actions to reverse and prevent symptoms of Digital Eye Strain. I’ve included some tips below to help keep your family’s eyes their healthiest.
1. Set screen time limits
Limiting screen time within your household is a healthy habit to get into. Time limits will range based on age but they are something everyone can benefit from.
- Ages 0-2: No screen time, with the possible exception of live video-chatting with parental support.
- Ages 2-5: No more than one hour per day of age-appropriate, educational, and supervised viewing.
- Ages 5+: Ideally, no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time (outside of work or school).
2. Follow the 20/20/20 Rule
Anytime you or your family are in front of a screen, you should be following the 20/20/20 rule. This means every 20 minutes of screen time should be met with a 20-second break while looking 20 feet away. There is growing evidence that suggests the rise of myopia (near-sightedness) in children might be linked to increased screen time and less time outdoors. Making time for the eyes to look out and focus on objects far away could help curb this growing trend.
3. Add moisture
When we do focused work on a screen, we blink less frequently and our blinks tend to be less complete (think half blinks where the eyelids don’t completely shut). This can result in dry, irritated eyes that are not being fully flushed out. Consider using eye drops or adding a humidifier to the room to help with the dryness and irritation. Hydrated eyes are happy eyes.
4. Eat foods that promote eye health
Dark green and orange vegetables, like kale, spinach, and orange peppers, have essential vitamins like Vitamin A and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that keep our eyes healthy. Be sure that these vegetables are being incorporated into family meals to help keep your household’s eyes healthy.
5. Keep your distance
When possible, keep your device screen about an arm’s length away from your eyes and just below eye level. This can help to reduce eye strain while also helping to improve posture.
6. Adjust the lighting
When you or your family are using a device, whether it be a phone, laptop, tablet, etc., it’s important to have proper lighting in the room. Proper lighting will reduce eye strain and keep your vision comfortable while in front of a screen.
7. Wear blue light lenses
Wearing blue light lenses can help prevent eye strain and improve sleep quality. We recommend wearing these if you are in front of a screen in the evening. If you don’t have a pair of blue light glasses, check your phone and laptop settings to turn on ‘night mode’ or ‘night shift’ to reduce the amount of blue light coming through the screen and warming it with a more orange hue.
8. Wear reading glasses
If someone in your household is having a difficult time focusing on objects close up, we recommend they consider using reading glasses. Not only do reading glasses help you see better, but they also prevent eye strain and headaches. Talk to your eye doctor about the right type of reading glasses for you.
9. Get routine eye exams
Visiting your optometrist at least once a year to get routine eye exams should be part of your family’s eye health strategy. Most insurance companies in Canada cover comprehensive eye exams and save you from having to cover the entire cost yourself. During an eye exam, your optometrist will examine all parts of the eyes including your eyelids, eyelashes, sclera, conjunctiva, cornea, optic nerve, retina, blood vessels, and lenses.
Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome
About the Author
Dr. Bosung Kim received his Bachelors of Science degree at the University of Waterloo and then continued to pursue his Doctorate of Optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago graduating with Cum Laude Honors. He was a member of the Gold Key International Optometric Honor Society, Tomb and Key Honor Society, and also served as President of the Beta Sigma Kappa Optometric Honor Society during his studies.
Dr. Kim loves to provide optometric care because it allows him to focus on three things he is passionate about: health care, building relationships, and fashion. He strives to help patients see their best and has been providing optometric care in the lower mainland since 2017.