Anyone who has sat in front of the computer or been staring at their tablet for too long understands the toll it can take on your eyes. “Patients do ask a lot about computers, vision and eye strain,” says Michael Negrey, MD, ophthalmologist at Riddle Hospital.
The condition has become so common, in fact, that it now has its own name: computer vision syndrome (CVS). A temporary condition, CVS is caused by spending too much uninterrupted time in front of a computer or other screen. Patients with CVS often complain of symptoms like headaches, neck pain, dizziness, blurred or double vision, and dry, irritated or red eyes.
Unfortunately, computers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and each new piece of technology seems to emphasize a larger, clearer screen. Without the option to leave your screen time behind altogether, what can you do to help prevent the unpleasant side effects? Dr. Negrey offers his tips below.
The 20-20-20 rule
When you’re in front of a computer concentrating on a project or watching a show for hours at a time, you blink less often than you normally would. The easiest fix for this is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Make it a point to blink more during these 20 second intervals, too. Taking your eyes away from the screen periodically can help relieve irritation, dryness and fatigue.
Become a pencil pusher
Patients often ask about any exercises that can strengthen the eyes or improve their ability to focus. To improve your focus, Dr. Negrey recommends exercises called 'pencil pushes.' To try a pencil push up, hold a pencil a few inches in front of your nose and look at an object in the distance, then back at the pencil. Repeat the exercise several times.
You already know that exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do to keep your body healthy, but did you know that it can be good for your eyes, too? Many recent studies have suggested that regular exercise can prevent eye problems later in life, and when it comes to easy treatments, exercise is a big one. Besides exercise itself being beneficial, the occasional break from your seat and your screen can help to give your eyes a break.
In addition to these tips, Dr. Negrey recommends a baseline eye exam.
"Eye strain on your computer or while you're reading can be a sign of a more serious condition, so it's a good time to get your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist," he explains. "A baseline eye exam will help ensure your eyes are healthy and serve you well in the long run, computer or no computer."