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Digital Eye Strain

Digital Eye Strain (DES) is a result of prolonged use of digital screens such as the computer, laptops, tablets and phones. Eyecare Network has noticed an increasing trend of patients coming in for a consultation due to physical and visual discomfort that occurs at the end of the work day.

It is found that on average people of working age in Australia now spend over six hours a day staring at screens! It is no wonder that more of our patients are coming in with this problem.

What is Digital Eye Strain?

DES is the physical and/or visual discomfort felt after spending two or more hours working in front of a screen.

What are the symptoms of DES?

  • Tired eyes
  • Headaches
  • Dry or irritated eyes
  • Blurred vision

The severity of these symptoms are dependent on the level of an individual’s visual abilities and time spent in front of a screen. Uncorrected vision problems such as hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism, focusing issues and eye coordination can manifest as DES.

Many of these symptoms are temporary and will decline after the cessation of digital screen usage. However, this may not be the case for everyone and symptoms can last even after stopping work. If this issue is not addressed, the symptoms will recur and may worsen in the long run.

What causes DES?

The unique characteristics and high visual demands of computer and digital screens make many individuals susceptible to the development of visual discomfort as the eyes often have to work harder to keep up with these demands.

The visual demands of viewing a digital screen versus a printed page varies completely. The digital screen has more demands as sometimes the contrast between the words and background are reduced, the eyes have to deal with glare and reflection which can make viewing more difficult. Viewing distances and angles of the screens is also a factor. The digital screen is made up of different visual elements that places extra stress on eye focusing and eye movements. All these factors together command an increased visual performance, which far exceeds the visual abilities of an individual to comfortably perform them and therefore, result in DES.

How is DES diagnosed?

DES can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. The optometrist will put an emphasis on testing visual requirements at the computer or digital device working distance. They will do so via:

  • Patient history to determine the symptoms experienced, presence of underlying general health problems, work requirements and demands as well as the patient’s work environment.
  • Visual acuity measurements to assess for any uncorrected vision and to determine the appropriate lens power needed to compensate for any nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
  • Binocular vision tests which determines how well your eyes focus, move and coordinate with each other. This will help reveal any problems that keep your eyes from focussing effectively or make it difficult to use both eyes together.

How is DES treated?

Solutions to DES are varied and tailored to the individual, their lifestyle and their visual demands. They can usually be alleviated by seeking eye care and changing how you view your screen.

Enhancing your work environment

It is important to optimise your work environment to prevent the onset and reduce the symptoms of DES. Here are some tips:

  • Location of the screen – It is more comfortable to view downward onto the computer screen so have your screen 15 to 20 degrees below eye level as measured from the center of the screen and have the screen 50-70cm from the eyes.
  • Reference materials – If you need to refer to paper documents or materials while working, it is a good idea to have them located above the keyboard and below the monitor via the use of a document holder. In doing so, this helps eliminate excess head movement that can lead to neck and shoulder pains.
  • Lighting – position the computer screen to avoid glare and excess reflections from overhead lighting and windows. Use blinds on windows and switch to a lamp to reduce glare.
  • Anti-glare screens – A screen glare filter is also a great way to reduce the amount of light reflected from the screen
  • Posture – chairs should be comfortable padded and conform to your body. Chair height should be adjusted so your feet rest flat on the floor, arm rests should be adjusted to provide arm support while typing and your wrists shouldn’t be resting on the keyboard when typing.
  • The 20-20-20 rule – To prevent the onset of DES, try to give your eyes a break when using digital devices for long periods. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will provide a chance for your eyes to relax and reset itself before going back to work.
  • Blue light filter – Recent research has shown the blue light emitting from digital screens can contribute to the onset of DES. New smartphones, tablets and computer monitors now come with a function to set a blue light filter, which helps reduce the amount of blue light and thus, relieve eye strain. If this function is available to you, turn it on as it will help ease the strain on your eyes.

Digital Screen Lenses

In response to an increased trend of digital screen usage, lens laboratories have designed lenses tailored to this increase in visual demands due to the increased reliance on technology. Individuals suffering from DES who may or may not be wearing glasses will find these digital lenses to be of benefit.

For those who are already wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses will find that their glasses are not adequate for prolonged computer work. This is because this prescription is provided for general use. It does not meet the unique visual demands of computer or digital screen viewing. Thus, digital screen lenses with lens power customised to screen usage will help maximise visual abilities and comfort. The same applies for those who are not wearing glasses as well who may need these lenses just for work.

Eyecare Network offers an extensive range of lenses and lens coatings designed specifically for those who work with digital screens. This includes but is not limited to Hoya Dynamic Sync III, Hoya iD Workstyle, and Hoya PC Pro which all come with the blue control filter to optimise visual comfort for our patients and reduce the impact of eye strain symptoms.

To discuss digital eye strain, book your next appointment at Eyecare Network.

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