We’re in a new age of convenience and connectivity, and with it comes new health concerns. More than ever, our eyes are in front of screens – from smart devices and computer monitors to televisions and movie screens. And, more than ever, people of all ages are complaining of eye strain and fatigue, headaches, blurry vision, dry eye, and twitching of the eye or eyelid. This is often referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Every part of our eye is vital to healthy vision – from the tear ducts to the cornea to the various nerves and muscles. And every part of our eye is affected by our habits, including the stress and strain placed upon them from using digital devices, whether at school, work or home. While research in this area is still new, current studies show that the blue light emitted from cell phone screens and similar devices causes damage to retinal cells. Scientists believe the damage stems from the higher energy level in the shorter wavelength of blue light, hitting the eye with greater intensity than other light sources.
Reduce Eye Strain While Using Digital Devices
Serious vision problems don’t necessarily happen all at once; they can creep up on us over time if we’re not careful. That’s why early – and daily – intervention is critical. The following strategies can help minimize eye strain and prevent CVS from becoming a problem for you now and in the future.
- Position your desktop computer screen 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes and a little bit below eye level. Hold smaller devices 12-15 inches from the eyes.
- Choose screens that can tilt and swivel. Use a device holder for smaller devices.
- Use the appropriate screen display for your computer; change displays between light and dark mode; invest in a high-quality monitor.
- Use a blue-light / glare filter over your computer screen or your glasses.
- Place a document holder next to your screen. It should be close enough to allow you to comfortably glance back and forth to the screen and document.
- Use soft lighting at your workspace to reduce glare and harsh reflections.
- Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes. Look at objects in the distance, such as a picture on a far wall, a building outside, or a tree, for example. Blink often and exercise your eyes (see Therapy article, below).
If you’re concerned about changes in your vision or have experienced the symptoms of CVS, speak to your holistic eye care professional about additional health steps you can take.
Yoga Eyes and You
The idea that certain eye movement patterns can correct vision abnormalities such as near- or farsightedness has been around since the 1920s. While there’s no scientific evidence to support these claims, exercising the eyes does have health benefits.
The eyes are supported by bands of muscles (the extraocular muscles) that control their movement. Exercising those muscles can improve circulation to the eyes, which helps reduce inflammation and minimize eye fatigue. Strong eye muscles also protect against the negative effects of vision overuse patterns, such as digital eye strain or frequent night driving.
Below are two eye exercises; the first is for general eye health and the other is for glaucoma.
Figure Eight Eye Exercise
You may have practiced this exercise, sometimes called “yoga eyes,” if you’ve ever taken a yoga class. This exercise should be done from a seated position, such as at your desk, while relaxing in your favorite chair, or in an easy, seated yoga pose.
- Pick a point on the floor about 10 feet in front of you and focus on it.
- Trace an imaginary figure eight with your eyes.
- Keep tracing for 30 seconds, then switch directions.
Exercise to Reduce Intraocular Pressure Related to Glaucoma
Perform either option A or option B in combination with the blinking technique, performed simultaneously. These can be done with or without wearing your glasses.
A. Alternate between looking at very distant and very close objects. For example, when seated or standing, alternate between looking at your thumb, then looking at an object that is farther away, such as a building or a tree. Repeat several times.
B. Alternate between looking right and left.
Blinking Technique. Very light and fast blinking, the eyelids are light as “butterfly wings”.
While not all vision abnormalities or medical conditions can be corrected by eye exercises, keeping the eye muscles strong, flexible, and nourished is essential to protecting eye health.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WAYS TO REDUCE EYE STRAIN? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
American Optometric Association, “Glossary of common eye and vision conditions.” aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions
“Computer Vision Syndrome” https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome
Boptom, SJ, Asper, L, et al., “Ocular And Visual Discomfort Associated With Smartphones, Tablets And Computers: What We Do And Do Not Know.” Clin & Exper Optometry. (Jan 2019) https://doi.org/10.1111/cxo.12851
Blehm, C, Visnu, S. et al. “Computer Vision Syndrome: A Review” Surv Ophthalmol. (2005) May-Jun; 50(3):253-62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15850814
Healthline.com “Blue Light from Your Phone May be Permanently Damaging Your Eyes.” https://www.healthline.com/health-news/phone-may-be-damaging-your-eyes#1
Newsweek.com “Eye Damage Risk From Cellphones, Laptop Screens Revealed.” By Spear, Lisa. Posted 11 Aug 2018. Accessed 6 Mar 2019: https://www.newsweek.com/blue-light-cell-phone-laptop-screens-can-speed-blindness-1068343
American Academy of Ophthalmology Report: Complementary Therapy Assessment: Visual Training For Refractive Errors(August 2013) Accessed 4 Mar 2019: https://www.aao.org/complimentary-therapy-assessment/visual-training-refractive-errors-cta–october-200
American Optometric Association: “Definition of Optometric Vision Therapy.” Accessed 4 Mar 2019: https://www.aoa.org/Documents/CRG/definition-of-optometric-vision-therapy.pdf
Neuroscience, 2nd edition.”The Actions and Innervation of Extraocular Muscles.” Accessed 4 Mar 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10793/
HealthLine.com: “Eye Exercises: How-to, Efficacy, Eye Health, and More.” Accessed 4 Mar 2019: https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/eye-exercises
YogaInternational.com “4 Exercises for Eye Strain” https://yogainternational.com/article/view/4-yoga-exercises-for-eye-strain