Computer Strain: Are your eyes bothering you during COVID times while on the computer?

Eye on Health™ by Dr. Melendez

Thank you to the President of The American Academy of Ophthalmology, Anne L. Coleman, MD, PhD, for these tips in her recent article:

Some people are experiencing numerous issues while working from home during the COVID pandemic. As ophthalmologists, we know that people who spend a lot of time on the computer, experience computer strain, headaches, and dry eyes. All of these issues can be caused by several causes. Tips below can help you tremendously. improve eye strain. Glasses could also be an easy fix if you over the age of 40 years of age. A good rule of thumb is to start around +1.25 around age 40 and increase to +1.50 around 45 and +2.00 at age 50 and so on. These numbers are merely a rough guide and some people may need a custom prescription from your doctor because of astigmatism and asymmetric prescription between both eyes. If the below tips do not help, then I recommend seeing your ophthalmologist or optometrist for an eye exam.

Apply the 20/20/20 rule

You can avoid digital eyestrain by simply giving your eyes a break at regular intervals, Dr. Coleman says. “In ophthalmology, we have a rule for computer time that every 20 minutes you should look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Now it can be hard to remember to do that, but even if you give your eyes a break once or twice an hour, it can really help,” she says.

Lubricate your eyes

As we get older, our tear production declines and increases our risk for dry eyes. Blinking less frequently while on the computer exacerbates the problem, says Timothy G. Murray, M.D., president of the American Society of Retina Specialists. “As your cornea becomes less lubricated, things become blurry, your eyes feel gritty, and your eyelids may droop a little bit as they try to protect against the dryness. You can avoid this by using artificial-tear eye drops to lubricate your eyes.”

If you find yourself needing to use drops more than four times a day, the AAO recommends buying preservative-free drops, as many people find the preservatives can irritate their eyes.

Increase the font size

Another underlying cause of computer-related eyestrain is that your eyes are working hard to focus on words or images at a somewhat odd distance: A computer screen is farther away than you’d hold a book and closer than you’d be from your TV. “You can buy computer glasses for the exact distance you need,” Murray says. “So if you sit 21.5 inches from your screen, you can get glasses that are focused exactly at that distance. But I haven’t really found that helpful for my patients.”

The problem with that approach is most people are using laptops, tablets and/or auxiliary monitors, so the distances from their screens vary. The easiest solution in such cases is to simply increase the font size to a comfortable reading size on all of your screens, Coleman says. “That way you’re not fiddling with glasses every time you want to see what you’re working on.”

Adjust the contrast

Boosting the contrast on your monitors also can take the strain off your eyes, Coleman says. “More contrast is always good, especially for older adults. As we mature, we all start to develop cataracts — a yellowing or clouding of the lens of the eye. Contrast helps the light go through that yellow filter, so it will be a bit easier to see,” she says.

Reduce glare 

Too much glare — light that is brighter than the eyes can comfortably handle — from your screens can also lead to eyestrain, Coleman says. “A matte screen filter can help reduce glare and make computer time easier on your eyes.” I would add that a nearby window can create a lot of glare and you may have to move your office around to improve the lighting in your home office.

Buy a better monitor 

Finally, a new monitor can do wonders for tired eyes, especially if you’re staring at a small laptop screen all day. “You can buy big, high-resolution screens that allow for very easy viewing,” Murray says. “The higher the pixel resolution, the sharper the text and images look, and the easier it is on your eyes to focus.” Many affordable auxiliary monitors are now available in 4K (considered ultra high-definition) resolution.

Eye on Health™ by Dr. Melendez 2020

Published by drrobmelendez

Eye Surgeon (Ophthalmologist) with Eye Associates of NM. I love performing eye surgery to help patients see better and live more fulfilled lives. I am married with 3 children and love helping others. I volunteer with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation Board, and the Univ. of New Mexico School of Medicine. I serve on several boards and enjoy helping others. I have interest in educating and mentoring. I am a veteran where I served in the NM Air National Guard as a flight surgeon and a Lt Colonel. I also helped start a foundation named after my mom who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa called The Juliette RP Vision Foundation. I enjoy playing tennis and music.

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