Computer Users: Try Using the 20/20/20 Rule for Healthy Vision

Computer Users: Try Using the 20/20/20 Rule for Healthy Vision

Does this sound familiar: you spend most of the day at work looking at a computer? At home, you check email, pay bills, read books and binge watch TV shows all using your laptop, smartphone or tablet. The average American adult now spends eight and a half hours every day in front of a screen.  All of this technology may have an unexpected side effect called Computer Vision Syndrome (also known as Digital Eye Strain).

Computer Vision Syndrome is a group of symptoms involving vision problems and eye discomfort.  This syndrome describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and mobile device use. Many people have eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. Not surprisingly, the level of discomfort appears to grow with increased digital screen time.

Why now is this worse than the days of yore and reading by candlelight, which could cause eye strain? Electronic media has smaller type, bright backlighting and lower contrast, eye doctors explain. We may also blink less often when looking at digital versus print media, American Academy of Optometry research suggests, which can lead to dry eyes.

Computer Vision Syndrome Symptoms
The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck, back and shoulder pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Irritated eyes

How You Can Help Yourself to Reduce These Symptoms
Limiting the amount of time spent in front of the computer will have a dramatic impact on symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. But for many people, technology is a major part of our jobs and in our daily lives.  So what can we do? Try the 20/20/20 rule: after working on the computer for 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This quick break can actually improve your ability to work efficiently and helps to prevent eye strain. And while you are at it, add a stretch or two on the hour! Taking a two-minute stretch break every hour can act as a vision therapy exercise and can also help to lessen your stress, give you more energy and help with your mental focus, clarity and efficiency.

VisionProtect Your Vision
What else can you set your sights on to help protect your vision at home and at work?

  • Assess your setup. Move your monitor back so that you are about 25 inches away from the screen. Adjust your monitor and seat height so that you can look slightly down at the screen and place your feet flat on the floor with your back straight.
  • Be screen smart. The brightness of your screen should match the light level in the room. Use an antiglare display when possible, and keep it clean and dust-free. Finally, make sure there’s as much difference between the background and text as possible by adjusting the screen’s contrast.
  • Give your eyes some R & R. When your peepers feel sore or tired, close your eyelids and cover them with a warm washcloth. Make sure to get enough shuteye, too. Your eyes replenish nutrients and your eye muscles relax as you sleep.
  • Wear your glasses or contacts. Uncorrected vision problems put extra strain on your eyes. Some people wear different lenses when using a computer. Special lenses with different designs, strengths and tints can help your eyes adjust to screen use. You might need corrective eyewear when using a screen even if you don’t need it in everyday life!
  • See an eye doctor. If vision problems don’t go away when you’re not in front of a screen, make sure you visit an ophthalmologist. You may have a visual condition that needs medical treatment. Your eye doctor can also suggest changes to your screen setup to help correct or even prevent eye discomfort.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your kids, too! It is important to limit children’s computer use. Kids are less likely to take a needed break or even notice discomfort or other symptoms associated with computer vision syndrome. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age 2 and recommends limiting older children's screen time to no more than one or two hours a day.


Sources: American Optometric  Association, The Mayo Clinic

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