Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle

Digital eye strain at work? Here’s how to help those tired eyes

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  • Category Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle

Thursday 12 October is World Sight Day and, this year, the focus (pun intended) is on eye care at work.

In this day and age, digital eye strain is arguably the greatest contributor to eye health issues at work. With the average office worker spending seven hours a day in front of a screen, it’s not surprising that at least half of computer users experience it. Symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, red or scratchy eyes, dry eyes and increased sensitivity to light. You may not be able to change the amount of time you’re in front of a computer, or the factors that can cause eye strain, but Wesley Language, Head of Optometry at Spec-Savers, shares some steps you can take to reduce it.

Rest your eyes

Look away from your computer screen regularly and focus on distant objects, as this relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye, which in turn reduces eye fatigue. It’s advisable to keep the 20/20/20 rule in mind: every 20 minutes look away from your screens at something that is 20 feet (6 metres) away from you for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to relax and can alleviate symptoms.

Use adequate lighting and reduce glare

Glare reflected from light-coloured walls and shiny surfaces, as well as reflections on your computer screen, can cause eye strain. Some ways to reduce this include:

  • Attach an anti-glare screen to your monitor, especially if there’s a window behind you.
  • Reduce the external light by covering windows with curtains or blinds, reduce the lighting in your room and avoid sitting under big overhead fluorescent lights.
  • If you’re a specs wearer, use lenses with an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare.

Adjust your monitor’s display settings

  • Make sure the brightness matches the surroundings (bright room, bright screen) and adjust the text size and contrast so that it is comfortable to read. Black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
  • If you’re on a screen at night, adjust the monitor’s colour temperature to reduce the blue colours on your screen. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light, and there is evidence that this may be associated with certain eye conditions.

Modify your workstation

The way you sit at your desk and arrange your equipment can affect your vision.

  • Place documents on a copy stand next to the screen so you don’t need to keep looking down at a piece of paper and then up at your monitor.
  • Make sure your workstation and chair are at the correct height. Improper posture while working on your computer can also add strain.
  • Your computer screen should be 50 to 60 centimetres from your eyes and the centre of the screen should be 10 to 15 degrees below your eye line.
  • Your chair should be set up so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your back is slightly reclined

Enlist the help of customised blue light computer glasses

These special-purpose glasses are prescribed specifically to reduce blue light exposure and differ from regular eyeglasses or reading glasses in various ways.

  • The usual positioning of a computer screen means that it’s within your intermediate zone of vision, which is closer than driving (distance) vision, but farther than reading – or near – vision.
  • Generally, computer glasses have about 60% of the magnifying power of reading glasses to enable optimal magnification in this intermediate zone.
  • Computer glasses should accurately correct any astigmatism you might have, and precise measurements should be taken to ensure the optical centre of each lens is directly in front of your pupils when you are using your preferred working distance.

For these reasons, computer glasses should be customised to your individual needs. Using weaker, non-prescription reading glasses for computer use typically won’t provide the accurate vision correction you need for sustained clarity and comfort while at your computer.

The very best thing you can do, though, is to have a comprehensive eye exam this World Sight Day to rule out any vision problems you may have. When you have your test, let the optometrist know you use computers regularly and how long you use them for. And while you’re there, please spread the love by pledging your eye exam, using #LoveYourEyes to post on social media.

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