Digital eye strain is more common than you might think

You are most likely reading this on a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. It’s hard to avoid using a digital device these days. In fact, Albertans spend an average of 10.5 hours a day on a digital device, which is resulting in more cases of digital eye strain.

Digital eye strain is caused by a combination of factors including:

  • Eye muscles working harder. When you look at close-up objects such as the screen of a tablet or cell phone, your eyes contract and converge. This causes the eye muscles to work harder, causing them to become strained and tired over time.
  • More blue light entering the eye. Digital devices emit high energy visible light, also known as blue light, which can penetrate deep into the eye.
  • Less blinking. When we look at a screen, we tend to stare and not blink as often. Fewer blinks means fewer opportunities for your eyes to be coated with a protective lubricant that helps provide relief.
Whether you have an existing eye condition or have perfect vision, you may experience discomfort during or after using a digital device. Here are some of the symptoms of digital eye strain:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye irritation
  • Double vision
  • Excessive tearing or dry eyes
  • Excessive blinking or squinting
  • Shoulder, back or neck pain
Shockingly, more than 70 per cent of Albertans experience adverse symptoms because of digital device usage.

Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of digital eye strain:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule by looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds
  • Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting
  • Position your computer slightly below eye level and at arm’s length
  • Increase text size on digital devices
  • Adjust screen brightness
  • Make a conscious effort to blink regularly
Additionally, it is important to visit your optometrist on a regular basis. During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor of optometry will be able to rule out whether your digital eye strain symptoms are a result of a more serious vision or health problem. Your optometrist can also talk with you about eyewear that is specifically designed for computer use.

Annual eye exams for Albertans are covered for children up to age 18 as well as for seniors aged 65 and over. Alberta Health also covers the cost of visits to an optometrist for eye-related emergencies or treatments.

Click here to find a doctor of optometry near you.