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Blinking Matters

Suffering from eye strain at work?

Did you know …

  • Use of computers and digital devices causes decreased blinking by half to one-third and is a significant cause of eye strain?
  • Eye strain can cause headaches, blurry vision, difficulty concentrating dry eye and a host of other issues?

Normally, humans blink about 15 times a minute, but studies show we blink half to a third that, often while using computers and other digital screen devices, whether for work or play. Extended reading, writing or other intensive “near work” can also cause eye strain.

Follow these tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology to get some relief from eye strain.

Eye Ergonomics Tips

  • Sit about 25 inches, or arm’s length, from the computer screen. Position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
  • Many devices now have glass screens with considerable glare. Reduce glare by using a matte screen filter if needed.
  • Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry. Consider using a humidifier.
  • If a screen is much brighter than the surrounding light, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your room lighting and try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.

A note to contact lens users: Contact lenses can exacerbate eye dryness and irritation common to heavy users of computers and other digital devices often. Some tips:

  • Give your eyes a break by wearing your glasses.
  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses, even if they are labeled “extended wear.”
  • Always use good cleaning practices.

If your eyes are consistently red, blurry or watery, or they become sensitive to light or painful, see an ophthalmologist.

Eyestrain Signs and Symptoms

  • Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes
  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headache
  • Sore neck, shoulders or back
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling that you cannot keep your eyes open.

What Causes Eye Strain?

In many cases, eye strain symptoms are caused by looking at something for long periods without blinking. This can cause the eyes to feel dry. Eye strain from looking at a computer is no different from strain caused by driving or reading for hours. Sitting near a vent that is blowing hot or cold air in a person’s face also can make eyes dry out more quickly.

An incorrect prescription for glasses or contacts can cause blurriness, which can increase the feelings of eye strain, Dr. Barber said. Working in an environment that is too bright or not bright enough also can cause visual discomfort.

“If we have poor posture when we do tasks, it can cause neck, shoulder and back pain, which can add to the discomfort we feel and some people may attribute it to eye strain,” she added.

Reduce Eye Strain from Computer Use

To reduce the feeling of eye strain from prolonged computer use, you can take several steps, including using artificial tears, adjusting your computer screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward, and putting a humidifier next to your desk.

Also use the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

Driving Tips for Eye Comfort

To reduce eye strain when you’re driving:

When to See an Ophthalmologist

If you are still experiencing eye strain after adjusting your computer or workspace, see an ophthalmologist. You’ll be asked about your eye symptoms, including when they happen and how long they last. The doctor will check for dry eye, examine the eye muscles and determine whether you need eyeglasses or contacts, or if your current prescription is correct.

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