During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantines, more people are working from home via their computers. While this is convenient, it has led to people spending far more time in front of a computer screen. As a result, digital eye strain is becoming much more common, as are ocular migraines.
Migraines can be symptoms of other problems, like posture/muscle imbalance in your back and neck. If you count yourself among this group and have found your sleep cycles are being disrupted due to these health issues, there are several steps you can take to reduce eye strain.
What Causes Ocular Migraines and Eye Strain?
When you are suffering from eye strain or ocular migraines, there are likely many different factors causing these problems. Based on data from a Nielsen report, the average American spends between 10-12 hours per day staring at their computer screen or smartphone.
When we do, the result is far less blinking, poor posture from slouching shoulders, and increased pressure on our eyes. On average, humans blink 15-20 times per minute. Yet when staring at computer screens blinking is significantly reduced, in part because we blink less when we are concentrating intensely on something. As a result, our eyes get dry from not having an equal distribution of tears, leading to increased strain.
Other Common Causes of Eye Strain
While a lack of blinking is the primary cause of our eye strain, other factors contribute as well. If you suffer from ocular migraines, which may or may not be accompanied by pain and will have you seeing everything from stars to zigzagging lines, such factors as genetics, hormone fluctuations, stress and anxiety, and eating foods high in nitrates may result in this condition. Also, if you are in a room with bright lights or perhaps are being exposed to loud noises, you may also experience an ocular migraine.
Glasses vs. Contact Lenses
If you find yourself wearing contact lenses much of the time when you are working at a computer, this may in fact be causing your eye strain or ocular migraines. Since many contact lens wearers experience dryness of their eyes as their day progresses, this becomes exacerbated even more so when staring at a computer screen, since tear distribution is reduced from a lack of blinking.
To guard against this, doctors recommend taking out your contact lenses and switching to glasses later in the day if your eyes start to get dry and you find yourself straining to look at what's on the screen.
Obey the 20-20-20 Rule
If you want to keep 20/20 vision while staring at your phone or computer screen, take the advice of the American Optometric Association and follow the 20-20-20 rule. If you do, this means that every 20 minutes, you will turn and look away from your computer screen at an object that is at least 20 feet away.
By doing so, this gives you a chance to blink a few times, allowing your eye's tears to clean and moisten your eyes. In addition, this will let your eyes relax and refocus on something else for a few seconds, giving them a fresh start when resuming your digital activity.
Get a New Prescription
If you are experiencing dry eyes, headaches directly over your eyes, eye twitching or eyelid spasms, blurry or double vision, or even dizziness, these are likely indications you are suffering from computer eye strain or what is known as computer vision syndrome.
To get help with this, you should schedule an appointment with an optometrist for an eye exam. In many cases, continual eye strain at the computer means you need a new prescription for your glasses. As we age, our near-vision declines significantly, especially past age 40. When this happens, your optometrist may recommend new glasses with bifocal lenses or simply a new pair of reading glasses if a new prescription is not warranted.
Downloadable Apps for Eye Strain
If you are on your smartphone quite a bit during the day, you can download apps to help reduce or eliminate your digital eye strain. One of the most popular is named Awareness, which is available for both Mac and Windows users. Once this app is downloaded, you'll know it's time for a break when you start to hear the steady and soothing sounds of a Tibetian singing bowl playing in the background.
Though digital eye strain has become a common part of our 21st-century way of life, that does not mean it has to ruin your time at the computer or smartphone. By being proactive once symptoms begin, you can find remedies that will solve this common yet frustrating problem.