Seeing Through a Different Lens in 2020

Seeing Through a Different Lens in 2020
Posted on 09/18/2020
Seeing Through a Different Lens in 2020

Grace Sims, MS, LAT, ATC
Head Athletic Trainer, Rock Canyon High School

In this digital age, medical professionals are facing different patient problems unheard of in previous years. One major symptom presentation is computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. This title encompasses eye-related issues from prolonged screen use from digital devices. The more time spent on the device, the worse the symptom presentation appears to be.1

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA),1 “the average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home.” As DCSD transitions to hybrid learning, we wanted to provide some helpful information and tips.

Here are some statistics from The Vision Council:

Adults2 Teens/Kids2
80% report using digital devices for more than two hours per day 70% of parents report their kids have two or more hours of screen time per day
Before going to sleep, 80% report using digital devices, including TV. In the first hour of waking up, 55% use digital devices Leisure: 23.1% play on a digital device, 20.1% watch TV
27.7% experience headaches, 35% experience neck and shoulder pain 8.8% get headaches, 5% have neck/shoulder pain
32.4% experience eye strain, 27.2% experience dry eyes 32.4% experience eye strain, 27.2% experience dry eyes 9.1% eye strain, dry or irritated eyes
27.9% report blurred vision 15.2% reduced attention span
67% use two or more devices simultaneously, 59% report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain 13.3% poor behavior, 13.5% irritability

WebMD explains Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) as similar to overuse conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which occur from repetitive motion.4 The amount of visual information the brain has to process from our eyes can contribute to visual strain. Stopping computer work will usually decrease symptoms, although some experience blurred distance vision even after stopping.1 While there is no proof that prolonged screen use causes long-term damage, there are many other contributing factors to digital eye strain which can cause other issues, such as neck and back pain that could be more long-term in nature.

  • Routine eye exams
  • Good workspace
  • Computer settings
  • Frequent breaks
  • Lighting/glare
  • Display distance
  • Screen resolution
  • Posture
  • Diagnosis Comprehensive eye exam
  • Medical history
  • Medication use
  • Environmental factors
  • Eye tests for acuity, focus, and tracking
  • “20-20-20 rule”
  • Lubricating eye drops5
  • Computer glasses
  • Follow prevention strategies
  • Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds approximately every 20 minutes
    Risk Factors Uncorrected or undercorrected vision problems (e.g., farsightedness, astigmatism, aging changes, inadequate eye focusing or eye coordination abilities)1 Spending two or more continuous hours on a computer or use a digital device every day1

    Fortunately, like many overuse conditions, taking appropriate steps can help manage and prevent digital eye strain from worsening.

    Work Environment Computer Display Eye Health
  • Lighting
  • Posture/Seating
  • Display Height & Angle
  • Adjustable Copyholder for Reference Material
  • Brightness
  • Night Light options (available for Mac & Windows)
  • Anti-Glare screen
  • Routine Eye Exams
  • Rest Breaks
  • Blinking
  • Vision Therapy1
    Eye focus/coordination that may not be corrected by lenses need vision therapy (visual training) “to train the eye and brain to work more effectively together” 1

  • Tips to Help with Environment Lighting:

    • Reduce glare from windows and overhead lights by moving the screen.
    • Windows should be to the side of your screen instead of in front or behind.5
    • Use blinds/drapes or replace desk lamp light bulbs with lower wattage bulbs.
    • Work in a room with a dark matte paint to avoid reflection and glare.

    Tips to Help with Computer Lighting:

    • Use an anti-glare screen or anti-reflective coating for glasses.
    • Adjust the screen brightness.
      Hint: look at the white background of a web page; if it looks like a light, it’s too bright. If it seems dull and gray, it may be too dark.5
    • Upgrade your display if needed and cost-effective (older CRT screens can cause images to “flicker,” which can contribute to eye strain and fatigue according to Drs. Heiting and Wan).5
    • Adjust text size for comfort and consider black font on white background for good contrast and readability.
    • Adjust the color temperature of the screen.
    • Blue light is usually known for more eye strain, due to the short-wavelength visible light, so reducing that can help long-term viewing comfort.5
    • Most people prefer a slight downward angle for the computer screen: 15-20 degrees below eye level (about four to five inches from the center of the screen and 20-28 inches from the eyes).1
    • Make sure children don’t put a device too close to their eyes.Think arm’s length away for an adult.
    • Sit in a comfortable chair with feet flat on the floor, armrests at height to support arms while typing without wrists resting on the keyboard.
    • Looking back and forth between papers and the screen, especially if your materials are flat on the desk, can increase eye strain. Placing reference material above the keyboard and below the monitor or on a document holder or adjacent stand can help reduce discomfort from this habit.

    What Can “Eye” Do?

    • Schedule an eye exam. Ask your optometrist about glasses for computer use if your computer doesn’t have some of the built-in protective features for screen brightness. “Even minor vision problems can significantly affect comfort and performance,” according to the AOA,1 causing computer users to tilt their head to see the screen or bend forward, which can lead to back, neck, or shoulder tightness or pain.
    • Remember to blink! Studies show we blink one-third as often when looking at screens.5
    • Follow the “20-20-20 rule:” at least every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to relax the muscles in charge of focusing.
    • Take breaks. The AOA recommends a 15-minute break after two continuous hours of computer use.
    • Consider non-screen leisure activities.
    Below are screenshots from Google with instructions on how to adjust your computer screen to help with the blue light or glare.

    Google Screenshot
    Google Screenshot

    Hybrid learning gives us all a chance to practice healthy habits for our posture, eyes and brains, and minds to keep us fresh for the academic challenges ahead. Likewise, parents and teachers can benefit from many of these tips to help prevent computer vision syndrome or manage current digital eye strain. Good luck to all, and remember the “eyes” have it!

    1. Computer Vision Syndrome. Accessed August 24, 2020.
    2. Digital Eye Strain. Accessed August 24, 2020
    3. Digital Eye Strain. Accessed August 24, 2020
    4. Computer Vision Syndrome: Too Much Screen Time?. WebMD. Published 2019. Accessed August 25, 2020
    5. Heiting G, Wan L. 10 Tips for Computer Eye Strain Relief. All about Vision. Published 2019. Accessed August 24, 2020
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