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Eyestrain 101

male office worker

Photo: PeopleImages/iStockphoto

Whether it’s a work computer, a home laptop or our ever-present smartphones, chances are you stare at some type of screen for hours each day. This can lead to vision problems. “Focusing on tiny type for hours on end can cause eyestrain, fatigue and headaches,” the American Academy of Ophthalmology cautions. “Staring at screens for long periods can also leave eyes parched, red and gritty-feeling.”

The Mayo Clinic states that eyestrain is a common condition that occurs when a person’s eyes get tired from intense use, and “people who look at screens two or more hours in a row every day have the greatest risk of this condition.”

Take a break

AAO recommends taking the following steps to prevent eyestrain:

Keep your screen at arm’s length. When working with a desktop computer, keep the screen about 25 inches from your face, or about an arm’s length away. If doing so makes the words on the screen appear too small, adjust the font size.

Mind the glare. Screen glare from lighting can irritate your eyes; try a matte filter for your screen to help diminish glare.

Give your eyes rest time. AAO notes that eyestrain occurs after long and continuous screen use, and recommends workers follow the “20-20-20 rule”: Take a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes time to relax.

Avoid dry eyes. Try using a personal humidifier at your desk to help keep your eyes moisturized. Additionally, keep eye drops handy to lubricate your eyes if they feel particularly dry.

Pay attention to lighting. If your screen is too bright, your eyes have to work harder. Adjust your screen’s brightness, as well as the lighting in your office or home, to reduce eyestrain.

If these steps don’t help, AAO recommends seeing an ophthalmologist.

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