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What’s hurting my eyes? Know all about digital eye strain & how to beat it
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What’s hurting my eyes? Know all about digital eye strain & how to beat it

An ophthalmologist guides us in our quest to understand digital eye strain, a common problem associated with prolonged use of digital devices.
digital eye strain and how to beat it
Beat eye strain | Illustration by Syalima

From laptops and smart TVs to smartphones and e-classes on giant screens, devices surround us. And we have virtually become their slaves.

The National Family Health Survey 2019-2021 revealed that Indians are losing interest in reading newspapers, listening to the radio or going to cinemas. The survey found that only 32 percent men and 14 percent women who were surveyed read a magazine or newspaper at least once a week.

One of the main reasons for this loss of interest in conventional media is the access to news on the internet almost instantly and at any time of the day. The NHFS-5 report found that internet usage in the country has increased more than four-fold, from 10.9 percent in 2014-15 to 48.8 percent in 2019-21. (1) (2)

Bhaskar Singh, 34, general manager at Maruti Suzuki, spends 9-10 hours every day on his computer. After continuously experiencing blurry vision, he visited his eye doctor. The first question from the doctor was about the time he spent on the cell phone and computer.

The last few years have seen new kinds of disorders and syndromes such as the digital eye strain, also referred to as computer vision syndrome.

Virtual presence

The Microsoft Work Trend Index 2021 reveals that the intensity of the people’s work on digital screens has increased substantially. Microsoft Teams meetings alone have seen a 2.5-fold increase globally. The report also says the average team meeting is up from 35 minutes in 2020 to 45 minutes. (3)

According to a study done in Japan, those who used digital screens for more than four hours per day had severe symptoms of dry eyes, a common sign of digital eye strain. (4)

Dr Piyush Tewari, ophthalmologist, Tewari Eye Centre, Noida, says individuals experience different kinds of vision problems with prolonged digital screen use.

What causes the strain?

Dr Tewari says computer screens or your smartphones make your eyes work harder. The smaller fonts on the devices, along with reflections and glares make the viewing difficult. The eyes are strained after continuously looking at digital devices because people tend to blink less when using computer or phone. And blinking moistens the eyes.

Another reason is that the ideal distance or angles to view the device is not followed. “The ideal distance between your eyes and the computer screen should be 16-30 inches,” he says.

Symptoms of CVS

  • Headache
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye strain
  • Blurred vision

The causes

  • Poor lighting
  • Glare on the screen
  • Poor seating position
  • Improper viewing distance

Dr Tewari points out that the symptoms are temporary and can fade away after stopping or limiting use of digital devices. Some people may experience the symptoms even after reducing screen time and they need to see their eye doctor for further diagnosis.

Diagnosis

As with other eye conditions, CVS can be detected with a detailed eye examination.

A visual sharpness test helps to determine the extent of effects on vision.

Refraction test determines the lenses required to correct the vision.

Eyes focus test is done to determine the movement of the eyes and find out if the eyes work in unison.

Treatment options

Dr. Tewari says, “First and foremost, you’ll have to stop or reduce your screentime. That will solve half of your problems.”  Singh was advised to use anti-glare glasses and has been trying to reduce his screen time so as not to further harm his eyes.

However, if you are not able avoid the screen, here are a few things you can do instead, the eye specialist recommends.

Lubricate your eyes – Using lubricating eye drops 3-4 times a day will keep the eyes moist.

Adequate lighting – Keep the screen adequately bright, but neither too dark nor too bright.

Big text font size – A conveniently large font size gives less strain to the eyes.

Frequent blinking – Blinking is another way to keep the eyes moist. It will distribute fresh tears in the eyes,

No contact lenses – Contact lenses dry up the eyes if worn for a long period. If your job requires you to work on a computer, then opt for eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.

20-20-20 rule – This prescription asks to look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds once in 20 minutes. You can read more about its benefits here. The 20-20-20 rule and how it reduces eye strain

Set your screen right – Dr Tewari suggests using screens with high `refresh rates’ (75hz and above) if you are working for more than eight hours a day. Keep your computer screen 16-20 degrees below your eye level. Also, use the right table and chair while working on the computer, placing it 20 inches away from the screen.

  1. NFHS-5_INDIA_REPORT.pdf (rchiips.org)
  2. 60263_National_Report_Full File 05-07-2018 WEB.pdf (rchiips.org)
  3. PowerPoint Presentation (microsoft.com)
  4. Prevalence of dry eye disease among Japanese visual display terminal users – PubMed (nih.gov)

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