Ever wonders how can you protect your eyes when using a Computer? Here is how.
Most jobs nowadays involve some degree of computer usage, meaning almost everyone will be spending time in front of a computer. Unfortunately, this can result in eye strain or injury. In order to avoid this, you’ll have to properly protect your eyes both in front of and away from the computer.
A study earlier last year from the American Academy of Optometry found that working for just two hours on a laptop caused a significant increase in eye pain and vision problems. So even though 70 percent of people surveyed by the Vision Council refused to admit that their screen time might be messing with their eyes, those of us who spend 8-plus hour workdays in front of computers, or who catch up on our reading on tablets, or who are constantly checking our email on smartphones, have got to be feeling the strain.
Protecting Your Eyes during Computer Use
- Clean your computer screen periodically to remove any dust, dirt or fingerprints. This can make it easier on your eyes, so they are not having to focus harder to see what is on the screen, especially if there is text to read.
- Sit far enough away from the screen. Keep the monitor about 20 to 30 inches away from your face. This is usually considered at least an arm’s length away from the screen. To make sure your computer is positioned right, try the high-five test: if you can’t properly high-five your computer screen with a full arm extension, you’re sitting too close. This range has been found to be the best distance for proper viewing and for reducing eye strain.
- Adjust the height of the monitor so that the top of the monitor is just below your eye level so that you are looking down slightly when viewing the screen. Ideally, you should look down at the computer screen at about a 15 to 20 degree angle. This ensures that more of your eyeball is covered by your eyelid, keeping your eyes moisturised and healthy.
- Adjust your computer display settings. Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Generally, these adjustments are beneficial:
- Brightness. Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding workstation. As a test, look at the white background of this Web page. If it looks like a light source, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.
- Text size and contrast. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
- Color temperature. This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a colour display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a colour display for better long-term viewing comfort.
Note: For computers running on a Microsoft Windows operating system, display settings can be adjusted in Control Panel. For an Apple computer, display settings are found in Systems Preferences (in the Applications folder in Finder). In some cases, the color temperature of a desktop computer monitor is adjusted on the display itself.
- Enlarge text. Starting at small text can take you squint and put your face closer to screen, leading to fatigue and headaches, among other issues.So boost text size and colour contrast to make things easier to read.
- Use fonts and icon sizes that are easy for you to view and read. Avoid using small fonts and icon sizes as it can cause eye strain.
- Locate reference material properly. If you’re using any books or papers while working, you can strain your eyes if you don’t locate them properly. If they’re too low, your eyes will have to refocus every time you glance at them, leading to eye fatigue. You can also strain your neck by moving it to look down too often. Reference materials should be located above the keyboard and below the computer’s monitor. To help do this, use a document holder or a book to prop up materials a few inches and help rest your eyes.
- Blink more often. We naturally blink about 20 times every minute, but when focusing on a screen this can drop by as much as half as screens have a way of making you forget to do that. This means your eyes are at much greater risk of drying out when working on the computer. Since your body won’t blink as much naturally, you’ll have to be conscious of this and force yourself to blink.
- Deliberately blink every five seconds or so.
- If you find this too distracting, try taking breaks. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen for 20 seconds. This allows you to blink naturally and re-moisturise your eyes.
- Make sure there is proper lighting in the room. Overly dim lighting or overly bright lighting can cause strain to your eyes.
- Adjust your screen lighting. Your screen should be illuminated in relation to your environment. If you’re working in a brightly lit room, you can increase your brightness settings; if the room is dim, lower the settings. While the screen should be brightest object in the room, it shouldn’t be on the brightest setting in a dark room.
- Your eyes will often tell you if your screen isn’t lighted properly. If your eyes are feeling strained, try adjusting your brightness settings in relation to your work environment.
- Reduce glare from your screen. Surrounding lights can reflect off your screen and strain your eyes. There are several ways you can reduce glare and keep your eyes healthy. An example is to not to use your smartphone in direct sunlight. Also, grey backgrounds are easier on your eyes than white.
- Keep your computer screen clean. Dust on your screen can further reflect light into your eyes. Dust your screen on a regular basis with either a specialized cleaning cloth or spray.
- Avoid sitting with a window behind you. The sun’s rays will reflect off the screen and back into your eyes. If this is unavoidable, cover the window with a drape or sheet to help reduce the glare.
- Use lower wattage light bulbs. Very bright bulbs from desk lamps and overhead lights will reflect off the screen. If your work space is very bright, try switching to less powerful bulbs.
- Take regular breaks. Take what they call a “20-20-20 break”: Every 20 minutes, give yourself 20 seconds to check out what’s going on 20 feet away from you. Otherwise every 2 hours of looking at the computer screen, you should take at least a 15 minute break. During this time you should blink, close your eyes, and allow them to rest and re-lubricate.
- This isn’t only good advice to protect your eyes, but your health in general. Sitting for long periods of time can be bad for your back, joints, posture, and weight. Use these breaks to stretch and walk around to prevent the adverse effects of prolonged sitting.
- Ask your eye doctor about specialized glasses. Some glasses are specifically tinted to reduce glare from computer screens. You eye doctor can recommend a good pair of these that will help properly protect your eyes from computer glare. These are available in prescription and OTC versions.
- Make sure you only use lenses specifically designed to reduce computer glare. Reading glasses won’t help in this situation.
- Stop working if you experience symptoms of digital eye strain/computer vision syndrome. Eye doctors use this term to describe the adverse effects of prolonged computer use. These symptoms are not permanent and should subside when you step away from the computer for a few hours. They can cause significant discomfort, however, and if ignored can lead to permanent eye problems.
- Symptoms include headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, dark or discolored eyes, and neck and shoulder pain.
- By using the steps in this section when using the computer, you can significantly decrease your risk of developing digital eye strain. Sometimes, however, the best answer is taking a long break to let your eyes rest.
- Use a document holder for placing documents that you look at regularly, and place it at the same height and distance as the monitor.
- Use an anti-glare filter on your monitor, to help prevent glare and reflection from lights in the room.
- Consider computer eyewear. For the greatest comfort at your computer, you might benefit from having your eye care professional modify your eyeglasses prescription to create customized computer glasses. This is especially true if you normally wear contact lenses, which may become dry and uncomfortable during sustained computer work. Computer glasses also are a good choice if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, because these lenses generally are not optimal for the distance to your computer screen.
- Modify your workstation. If you need to look back and forth between a printed page and your computer screen, this can cause eye strain. Place written pages on a copy stand adjacent to the monitor. Light the copy stand properly. You may want to use a desk lamp, but make sure it doesn’t shine into your eyes or onto your computer screen. Improper posture during computer work also contributes to computer vision syndrome. Adjust your workstation and chair to the correct height. Purchase ergonomic furniture to enable you to position your computer screen 20 to 24 inches from your eyes. The centre of your screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below your eyes for comfortable positioning of your head and neck.
- Upgrade your display. Use an LCD monitor aka flat panel display. The older CRT monitors are harder on the eyes, due to the lower refresh rates and general design of the monitor. LCD monitors feature higher refresh rates, high enough that most people are unable to see the refreshing of the screen and are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. LCD monitors in general are easier to view for longer periods of time and cause less strain on the eyes.
Protecting Your Eyes Away From the Computer
- Visit the eye doctor annually. Your visual abilities in everyday life influence how little or how much prolonged computer use will affect you. Conditions like farsightedness, astigmatism, and poor eye focusing can make computer eyestrain much worse. The eye doctor can prescribe corrective lenses to remedy your eyesight and reduce how badly the computer affects your vision. He can also recommend different methods of protecting your eyes while you use the computer.
- Follow the same rules from computer usage when looking at a smartphone, tablet, or television. With the proliferation of portable electronic devices, many people are experiencing digital eye strain from looking at smartphones. You should apply the same rules you would follow when using a computer to anything with a screen: clean the screen, adjust the brightness, take breaks, and minimize glare. In addition, there are a few more things you can do when viewing portable devices.
- Hold your phone or tablet 16-18 inches from your face. Holding it closer puts significant strain on your eyes.
- Although many people look at their phones while in bed, this is a bad habit. Remember, if the screen is significantly lighter than the environment, it puts strain on your eyes. Try to keep this habit to a minimum. If you continue doing this, at least put the brightness settings all the way down to minimize eyestrain as much as possible.
- Wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can do serious damage to your eyes if they aren’t protected. Conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration can be caused and exacerbated by sunlight. Buy a good pair of sunglasses and wear them whenever you’re in the sun. Look for an “ANSI” sticker on sunglasses to ensure that they meet American National Standards Institute guidelines and screen out the required amount of UV rays.
- Take care of your contacts. Dirty or old contact lenses can damage your eyes and even lead to vision-threatening infections. By properly caring for your lenses you can protect your eyes from damage.
- Wash your lenses after every use with the cleaning solution your eye care professional recommended.
- Wash your hands before handling your contacts. This ensures that you won’t transfer any bacteria from your hands to your lenses. Also wash with a mild, fragrance-free soap. You could also transfer chemicals and fragrances onto your lenses and cause eye irritation.
- Apply makeup after your lenses are already in, and remove your makeup after your contacts are out.
- Never sleep with your contacts in, unless they are specially designed for extended use.
- Wear goggles whenever you’re working with tools or chemicals. Small objects can do a lot of damage if lodged in the eye. Whether you’re working with power tools, cutting the grass, or cleaning the kitchen with chemicals, you should always wear appropriate eye protection. This will ensure that your eyes stay safe and healthy.
Protecting Your Eyes with Diet
- Get plenty of vitamin C. Vitamin C not only helps prevent you from getting sick, but it is also great for eye health. Evidence suggests that it can prevent the formation of cataracts and slow macular degeneration. While most fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C, the following foods are some of the best sources for the nutrient.
- Oranges. Drinking orange juice during flu season isn’t just a myth- one orange will provide you with a whole day’s worth of vitamin c. It is better to get your vitamin c from a whole orange rather than orange juice. That way, you can avoid the added sugar that comes from orange juice.
- Yellow peppers. Just one large pepper will give you 500% the necessary daily intake of vitamin c. These are easy to cut up and snack on throughout the day.
- Dark green vegetables. Kale and broccoli specifically are high in vitamin c. With a cup of either kale or broccoli, you can get an entire day’s worth of vitamin c.
- Berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all great choices for vitamin c.
- Eat foods high in vitamin A. This vitamin helps improve your vision in the dark. Orange and yellow foods tend to be high in vitamin A, so make sure you get plenty of them in your diet.
- Carrots. For decades carrots have been hailed as the food for good vision. While they are by no means the only food that will help your eyes, they’re packed with vitamin A and are a great food for maintaining eyesight.
- Sweet potato. This is another food filled with vitamin A. It makes a tasty side dish to many meals.
- Add zinc to your diet. Zinc aids in the production on melanin, a pigment which helps protect the eyes. There are a number of foods that will add a good amount of zinc into your diet.
- Shellfish. Lobster, crab, and oysters all provide high doses of zinc.
- Spinach and other green leafy vegetables. In addition to vitamin C, these vegetables will give your body the zinc it needs to protect your eyes.
- Nuts. Cashews, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts are all high in zinc. They are easy to snack on throughout the day.
- Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These are good for your overall health. They improve nerve function, and therefore help improve the performance of the nerves related to vision. The best sources of omega-3’s are oily fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.
- Avoid sodium. High sodium intake may add to your risk of cataract formation. Use less salt, and look for sodium content on the labels of canned and packaged foods. Stay below 2,000 mg of sodium each day. Choose fresh and frozen foods whenever possible.
- Drink plenty of water. One of the most common eye problems is excessive dryness. While there are certain conditions that can lead to dry eyes, you may just be dehydrated. Dehydration manifests itself in several ways, including decreased tear production. Try increasing your water intake to see if this helps your eyes feel less dry.
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