Digital Eye Strain (“Computer Vision Syndrome”): Dr Claudine Pang’s Tips for Relief
It has been more than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic began, resulting in sweeping changes globally across all industries. More and more people are working from home, and the lines between work and home start to blur. Recent measures by our government to curb further infections of the Delta variant, mandatory mask-wearing and convenience of home deliveries have led to many of us choosing to spend time with our loved ones indoors, streaming films on Netflix on our computers and televisions in favour of leaving the house.
With the increasing amount of screen time people are facing, I’ve seen a rise in patients coming into my clinic suffering from symptoms of digital eye strain, ranging from blurry vision to headaches, eye fatigue, and many more.
What are the symptoms of digital eye strain?
You may have had the familiar feeling of discomfort you get after staring at a computer screen or mobile phone for an extended period of time without taking any conscious breaks. That strained, achy feeling that could start from the middle of our foreheads and spreads above the eyebrows to the temporal head. Or that gritty sensation in our eyes that goes away with blinking and lubricating. Or the transient blurry vision we get when we look up from our screens and it takes some time for our eyes to re-adjust and re-focus? These are some of the symptoms that users with digital eye strain often experience. Other symptoms that my patients often encounter are:
Neck or back pain
Dry, gritty eyes
Why are my eyes blurry after looking at my phone?
When looking at our digital screens, our eye muscles have to contract to change the shape of our crystalline lens within the eye to bring the image into focus. The longer you spend looking at your screen, the longer the muscles have to remain contracted. Continuous contraction of the muscles over an extended period of time without rest will cause eye strain and fatigue.
At the same time, blinking is important to replenish our tear film which helps lubricate our eyes. When we look at screens, we tend to blink less without realizing it, which results in dry eyes. Increased dryness leads to discomfort, grittiness, and even blurry vision.
Other factors such as the nature of an individual’s work environment and reading habits can also contribute to digital eye strain. For example, poor posture can lead to neck ache or shoulder pains. Some of us may constantly switch between different viewing distances and angles, from reading documents on the desks to looking at your computer monitor. These repetitive variations in viewing distance may also place more stress on our eye muscles. Add these factors together and they give rise to the condition known as digital eye strain.
How do you treat digital eye strain?
An easy analogy would be to imagine yourself at the gym. When we hold up a weight, we often take breaks in between instead of continuously holding the weight up for the entire session. In doing so, we give ourselves time to rest and catch a breath. Similarly, our eye muscles need to relax after a period of time when looking at the computer, we should not neglect these hardworking and overworked muscles.