October is Global Ergonomics Month aimed at increasing awareness of ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are injuries of the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons, and account for over 40 per cent of all work-related injuries.
Since ergonomics is about creating a positive interaction with our work environment, we thought we'd touch on digital eye strain, a topic that is becoming increasingly relevant, especially with the younger generation. Did you know that 30 per cent of adults spend more than 9 hours on a digital device? (Source: LensCrafters). With technology becoming a permanent fixture in our lives, it is important to learn about digital eye strain and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms.
Symptoms associated with digital eye strain include:
- Sore, tired, burning, itchy, watery or dry eyes
- Squinting, blurred vision or double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light, headaches and eye fatigue
- Soreness in the neck, shoulders or back
These symptoms usually occur after using a digital device (e.g. television, laptop, desktop, smartphone, video games and tablets) for more than two hours at a time. Some of the main causes for digital eye strain include focusing on tiny text, the fixed position of the eyes, a reduced blinking rate (one-third of our regular blinking rate of 18 blinks per minute), partial lid closures while blinking and the presence of blue light which is what gives the screens their brightness.
Below are some of the ways to alleviate digital eye strain:
- Limit the use of digital devices by downloading applications that remind you to take regular breaks while using the computer (e.g. Time Out for Mac OS and EyeLeo for Windows) and smartphone applications (e.g. Moment) that track your phone usage and prompts you if you are approaching your daily limit.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule, i.e. every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Blink often as blinking helps lubricate the eyes and prevents dryness and irritation.
- Position your computer monitor at arms length away, with the top of the screen(s) at eye level. (ideal monitor height may vary for bifocal or trifocal users)
- Hold your smartphone at least 16 to 18 inches away from your eyes.
- Reduce glare on the screen by shutting blinds, turning off lights, using an anti-glare screen for your monitor or anti-glare screen protector for your smartphone, and ensuring your screen is clean and smudge-free.
- Avoid bright lights or windows directly behind the screen which may cause reflections.
- Adjust the brightness level on your screen so it is about the same as the light level in the environment around you.
- Reduce the effects of blue light by downloading Windows’ products (e.g. Flux) for your computer screen, using smartphone device features (e.g. Android’s “Night Mode” or “Night Light”, Apple’s “Night Shift) and/or wearing blue light lenses.
- Increase the text size on your device to better define content on the screen.
- Use artificial tears to help prevent and relieve dry eyes.
- Get your eyes tested regularly and let your optometrist know if you use digital devices regularly.
For more information visit: Canadian Association of Optometrists.
About the Author
Farzana Ismail is a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE), and a Senior Consultant at Focus On Ergonomics.
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- Tags: Blue Light, Digital Eye Strain, Dry Eyes, Ergonomic, ergonomic desk accessories, Ergonomic Prevention, ergonomics, Eye Strain, fitzBODY, Global Ergonomics Month, healthy workplace, Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders