Protecting Your Eyes from Screen Exposure

In today's screen-filled world, eye strain is a common woe. Our eyes blink less while focusing on screens, leading to dryness and discomfort. To protect your eyes from screen exposure, consider these tips: maintain a comfortable distance from your screen, combat dryness with artificial tears and humidity, reduce glare with anti-glare filters and anti-reflective coatings, optimize lighting, use high-resolution screens, follow the 20-20-20 rule, limit nighttime screen time to curb blue light exposure, invest in blue light glasses, boost macular pigment with supplements, and schedule regular eye exams. Prioritize your eye health for lasting screen comfort.
worker on laptop in dim room

We use screens for everything, especially now when many people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The average adult consumes five times more information daily than 50 years ago. Studies show that the average adult spends about 10 hours and 39 minutes staring at screens every day. Eye strain is a condition commonly associated with driving long distances and using computer screens. It occurs when eyes get tired from intense use. Digital Eye Strain (DES) occurs in about 50% of computer users. Luckily, there are many ways you can reduce the strain on your eyes while using your phone and computer. Keep reading for some important tips on protecting your eyes from screen exposure.

Symptoms of Eye Strain

In normal situations, we blink about 15 to 20 times in a minute. When we stare at a screen, we tend to blink less, which causes the eyes to become dry and feel strained. Studies show that looking at a screen reduces a person’s blink rate by a third to a half. According to the American Optometric Association, the symptoms of eye strain are headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and, in serious cases, neck and shoulder pain. Most symptoms subside after spending some time away from your screens. Eye strain is more annoying than it is painful or dangerous, but it is important to take steps to keep yourself comfortable while going about your daily life.

10 Tips for Protecting Your Eyes from Screen Exposure

There are many ways you can reduce the strain on your eyes while using your phone and computer. Keep reading for some important tips on protecting your eyes from screen exposure.

Get Some Distance

Using ergonomically correct positioning can prevent eye strain. Keep your computer about an arm’s length away from your body and about 10 to 15 degrees below eye level.

Avoid Dry Eyes

When we stare at our screens, we blink less than we normally would, which causes dry eyes. Having preservative-free, single dropper artificial tears may provide some relief from dry eyes. During the winter months, building heaters can dry out a room, so try using a small desktop humidifier to keep proper humidity in your office. Also, try to avoid working in areas that have strong drafts, which can dry out your eyes more quickly.

Reduce Glare

Glare on screens stops your eyes from making adjustments they need to focus. To prevent glare and protect your eyes from screen exposure, use a matte, anti-glare screen filter. They are inexpensive and come in many different sizes. Additionally, if you are a glasses-wearer, ensure that your glasses have an aunty-reflective coating to prevent glares on the inside and outside of your lenses.

Adjust Lighting

Ensuring your room or office is well lit can help protect your eyes from screen exposure. Less light in your room or office is better for your eyes when working on a computer. Try using lower voltage light bulbs and make sure your ambient lighting is half as bright as the rest of the office lighting. Also, match the brightness of your screen to the brightness of your workspace to reduce eye strain.

Use a High-Resolution Screen

Most computers and phones today have refresh rates of 75Hz or more. Higher refresh rates reduce the amount of flickering light coming from your screen which reduces eye strain. Make sure to do routine maintenance on your computer or phone to ensure it is working to its best ability. Also, high-resolution screens are more lifelike and take less work for your eyes to determine what the image is.

Give Your Eyes a Break

Taking some time away from your screens is one of the best ways to protect your eyes from screen exposure. Try using the 20-20-20 rule: if you look at your screen for 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. The longer you look away from your screen, the better. This is also a great time to get up, stretch, and walk around a bit!

Limit Screen Time at Night

Blue light is a low wavelength, high energy light that is admitted from digital screens and has the potential to damage the eyes over the long term. It can harm and disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. During the day, blue light wakes and stimulates us; at night, it does the same thing. Limit your screen time for 1 to 2 hours before you go to bed. Also, turn on nighttime settings on your phone to minimize blue light exposure at night. These settings warm the temperature of the light emitted from your device from a blue-white to a red-white. These settings can be set to automatically turn on and off at nighttime.

Invest in Blue Light Protective Gear

Blue light can put unnecessary strain on your eyes. Long-term studies show that it can damage your retinal cells, which may lead to age-related macular degeneration. To protect your eyes from screen exposure, invest in blue light glasses. These glasses have a yellow tint on the lens to help filter blue light. Oftentimes, you can get a blue light filter added to your prescription lenses if you are a glasses-wearer.

Boost Your Macular Pigment

Macular pigment is the primary blue-light-absorbing tissue in your eye. It is the thin layer of yellow tissue that sits in the very center of your eye, called the macula. It is made up of three carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin. These carotenoids can be enhanced with oral supplements that you can find at your local drugstore.

See Your Eye Doctor Regularly

Prolonged symptoms of eye strain may be a sign of an underlying condition. Getting regular eye exams can help keep your eye health in check and ensure that eye strain isn’t associated with any underlying problems. If you are experiencing consistently dry, red eyes or eye pain, visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Protecting your eyes from screen exposure is more about prevention than treatment. Start using these tips today to prevent eye strain!

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Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Founder and President of NBS Healthcare Group, with a focus on innovation in healthcare consulting.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.