Tips to avoid harmful effects of computer and smartphone screens on your eyes

Updated on Jul 26, 2022 08:17 AM IST

Staring at your digital screens for too long can lead to tired, itchy, dry eyes, and even blurred vision and headaches. Luckily, you can minimise inevitable digital eye strain by blending these few simple, healthy habits suggested by doctors into your digital devices-gazing routine.

Tips to avoid harmful effects of computer and smartphone screens on your eyes (Ola Dapo)
Tips to avoid harmful effects of computer and smartphone screens on your eyes (Ola Dapo)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

Computer screens have always been the proverbial double-edged swords where on the one hand they help us with all sorts of activities from business to entertainment, from health consultations to online courses, from stocks and finance to online shopping, while on the other hand, they have a major role in creating health issues, especially for the eyes. It was alright till the time computers were lying in one room and we could access them only when we would wind up with our day and spend some time but today computer screens are before our eyes almost throughout our awake time in the form of mobiles, tabs, laptops, office screens and even watches and the effect it creates has not only become stronger but also longer and all to the detriment of the users eyes.

Our digital devices are a sight for sore eyes, literally. If you're one of those people who glances at their digital devices more than 7 hours in a day, chances are your eyes are paying the price for your screen addiction as staring at your digital screens for too long can lead to tired, itchy, dry eyes and even blurred vision and headaches.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) ranges from mild to severe and involves eye redness, dryness, grittiness, tiredness along with headaches, sleepiness, eye pain, shoulder and back pain and blurring of vision for both near and distance. This leads to decreased productivity and non-resolving symptoms in the affected person.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anuradha Ghorpade, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Connect and Heal, revealed, “In children, especially those who spend a long time on the mobile phone playing games, along with the effect it has on memory and logical thinking, screen time increases the chances of inducing high refractive errors ( high power glasses ) which in the long run have their own problems and complications. Also due to constant eye rubbing due to tiredness, there are high chances of eye infections including styes and conjunctivitis which can also spread to others due physical contact with the touched hands.”

She pointed out, “In some people, especially the old with less space in their eyes (narrow angles) constant near work can precipitate an attack of acute glaucoma which presents as severe pain, redness and blurring of the vision. It is an emergency and may require admission and laser treatment. Some people also suffer from dark circles and wrinkles around their eyes not only due to lack of sleep but probably also because of the blue light of the computer screens. Blue light is also known to affect sleep patterns and cause retinal issues in the long run. This may include age-related retinal changes and central vision issues.”

According to Dr Anuradha Ghorpade, of all these problems, dryness of eyes and spectacle dependence are the two most common problems. She said, “Dryness can cause constant gritty sensation, blurring due to dry spots and intermittent watering. Contact lenses increase the dryness even more and is not recommended for computer users. Spectacle power keeps changing in young users while in old it shows fluctuations which cause intermittent blurring. Therefore it is recommended to reduce the screen time to the minimum possible and as much as is utmost necessary.”

She suggested, “Also, get your eyes checked by an eye specialist in case of any doubt. The diagnosis of dry eyes and related disorders can be made only in a clinic with various tests and equipments that are available there like OSDI questionnaire, Schirmer's test, tear break up time and Fluorescein staining. Once the diagnosis is made treatment can be initiated in the form of eyedrops, eye gels and tablets.” Along with this, she recommended the following precautions which should be followed:

- Use anti-reflective glasses or screens

- Keep the computer at 45 degree lower angle

- Blink the eye frequently

- Use eye moisturising eye drops during and after screen time

- Eat lots of fresh green and red/ orange vegetables and fruits

- Follow the 20-20-20 rule which means every 20 minutes look at a distance of 20 metres for 20 seconds to give break to the eye muscles and the eye surface

- Do not sit before the AC directly

- Sleep for 7-8 hours and drink 2-3 litres of water every day

- Go out in the sunlight frequently especially for children as it has shown to reduce the chances of glass progression

- Limit mobile phones use in children to the minimum possible for the overall development of the child, and engage the child in alternate activities instead of scolding.

Dr Rashmi Shukla, Consultant Ophthalmologist (Cataract, Cornea and Anterior Segment Specialist) at Mahim's PD Hinduja Hospital & MRC, advised, “For people who spend a lot of time on a computer, it is recommended to use a larger screen. The screen should be placed at least 65 cm away and slightly below eye level. Use anti-glare mode on laptop/ mobile screens. Position the screen such that light from natural or artificial source does not fall directly on the screen or your eye. Light from screen should neither be too bright nor too dull. Get your prescription glasses made with anti-reflective/anti-glare coating. Blink frequently while working on screen and take frequent breaks from screen to focus on objects at a distance. Use a cool mist humidifier to change dry air quality and keep well hydrated.”

Asserting that luckily you can minimise inevitable digital eye strain, Dr Rashi Taori Sawal, Sr. Consultant at Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals, listed a few simple, healthy habits to incorporate into your digital devices-gazing routine:

1. Keep your eyes wet by blinking about 12-15 times per minute and you should be good to go. It often keeps your eyes moist and reduces dryness and irritation. Blinking also helps refocus your eyes.

2. Being too close to your digital screen is also a factor in how your eyes can be negatively affected—they have to work harder to see things that are closer. If possible, keep your devices about 25 inches away, or about an arm’s length away. Make sure to position the screen so your eye gaze is adjusted slightly downward.

3. Make sure you adjust the brightness of your screen before using it. When a screen is much brighter than the surrounding light, eyes have to work harder and may be one of the reason of eye strain.

4. You can also tweak your text size and contrast as per your convenience. Adjusting your devices text contrast and size provides a little much-needed relief and makes it easier to read web content, email messages etc.

5. Keep your digital screen clean. Routinely wipe down your devices screen with a dry clean cloth to remove distracting dust, grime, smudges and fingerprints.

6. Limit devices before you go to bed. Study shows that the blue light from your phone and other screens may affect the body’s natural wake and sleep cycle. During the day time, blue light wakes us up and stimulates us, while at night it does the same thing, which makes it harder to get to sleep. If necessary, use night time settings on devices and computers that minimize blue light exposure.

Meanwhile, if you experience consistently dry, red eyes or eye pain, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist. Following the above precautions, one can take good care of their eyes, however, if one faces eye problems, the best thing to do is to visit the eye doctor and not to self-medicate in order to avoid wrong treatments and further aggravation".

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