Understanding eyestrain and reducing its impact

From using a computer at work and typing on a smartphone to reading a book in bed, so much of what we do requires the focused attention of our eyes. This is what you need to know about eyestrain and how to minimize it.

Understanding eyestrain and reducing its impact

The risks of eyestrain

Our eyes are not designed to cope with prolonged periods of close work, such as reading or working at a computer screen. It can cause eyestrain, which can make your eyes feel gritty and uncomfortable or result in a headache and blurred vision.

There are several reasons why computer work causes eyestrain.

  • What we do on our computers – whether playing games or working on computer-aided design (CAD) – involves intense, focused concentration.
  • We tend to spend longer periods at the computer than we would, say, reading a book.
  • Also, our blink rate is often reduced during computer use.

All this can cause dry eyes, blurring and eyestrain, plus other complaints such as neck, shoulder and wrist pain, or headaches. Until recently, most scientists said that spending long periods in front of a computer might make your eyes tired, but it wouldn't damage them. However, many eye specialists are now urging caution when it comes to heavy computer use.

Protecting yourself against eyestrain

Here are 3 simple, immediate steps you can take to lessen eyestrain when doing close work.

  1. Glance up briefly at regular intervals and look away for a second or so, perhaps at the end of every page. Move your eyes from side to side or gaze at a distant object to break the intense focus on one near point.
  2. Every 30 to 45 minutes, have a complete change of scenery. Take a 3 to 5 minute break to do something in a completely different environment, such as making a cup of tea or having a brief stroll outside.
  3. Wear glasses if you need them for close work so that your eyes don't have to work so hard and keep your prescription up to date.

You only have one set of eyes, so it's important to take good care of them – which includes keeping eyestrain in check.

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