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Dry eyes from computers: 6 tips for relief

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If you frequently use your computer, you may have experienced dry and irritated eyes before. You can book an eye exam with your optometrist to discuss some relief options available. Long periods of computer work can cause several irritating symptoms, such as headaches, soreness, and watery eyes. 

With few minor changes to your computer habits, you can help relieve and prevent these symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about 6 tips for relief from dry eyes caused by computer use. 

How Do Dry Eyes Happen When Using the Computer? 

Having dry, irritated eyes when using the computer is a common symptom of computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. Several factors can cause this condition, but infrequent blinking and extended focusing on close-up tasks are most common

With so many people using computers for work and personal enjoyment, it’s no surprise that digital eye strain is so common. You’ve likely experienced the symptoms of this condition without knowing it.

Digital Eye Strain Symptoms

The average Albertan uses digital devices for 10.5 hours every day, and over 70% of people experience digital eye strain symptoms, such as: 

  • Watery eyes
  • Redness
  • Irritation 
  • Sore neck, shoulders, & back
  • Blurry vision 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Dry eyes

Digital eye strain is common, but you don’t need to feel its irritating and uncomfortable symptoms. There are several tips you can use to relieve or prevent dry and tired eyes. 

6 Tips to Prevent & Relieve Digital Eye Strain

Take Breaks 

Giving your eyes a break from focusing is the best thing you can do when you’re feeling the effects of digital eye strain. Step away from the computer and let your eyes recover. Frequent breaks can help prevent dry and strained eyes. 

You can set up scheduled breaks to reduce your overall screen time, or you can practice the 20/20/20 rule. Take a 20-second break to look at something at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This technique lets your eyes rest and focus on something other than a screen. 

Adjust Your Devices 

Many digital eye strain symptoms occur because of constant focusing on your screens. Certain aspects of these screens, such as their background, glare, and flickering, can irritate your eyes. Adjusting your screens can help prevent future eye strain.  

Adjust your devices in several ways; you can: 

  • Change the brightness of your screen to match the lighting of your room
  • Make text larger for easier reading 
  • Raise the contrast on your screen
  • Raise your device’s refresh rate to reduce screen flickering 

Demonstrate Proper Body Positioning  

Proper ergonomics can help you prevent digital eye strain symptoms. The way you sit, position your monitor, and view your screens can impact your health. Digital eye strain is typically an issue with how you use your devices rather than the devices themselves.

You can practice effective body positioning by: 

  • Adjusting your chair height to rest your feet comfortably on the floor
  • Using proper posture when sitting at the computer (no slouching) 
  • Keeping yourself at least an arm’s length away from the computer 
  • Tilting your computer screen to rest below eye level 
Glasses and moisturizing eye drops on laptop keyboard

Keep Your Eyes Moisturized 

Computer use can lead to dry eyes. On average, you blink up over 50% less when using computers. Blinking helps keep your eyes moisturized, and infrequent blinking can lead to irritation. 

You can set reminders for yourself to blink, such as a phone notification or sticky note on your computer. If you’re looking for additional help, artificial tears can benefit your eyes. 

These eye drops mimic real tears, help relieve discomfort, and keep your eyes moisturized. If you have questions about the best eye drops for you, consult with your optometrist.  

Set Up Your Workspace to Avoid Glare 

Glare can reflect off your computer screen, making it harder to focus on your devices. Incoming sunlight and light from lamps and other indoor sources can contribute to the glare irritating your eyes. You can set up your workspace to reduce or remove incoming glare in several ways. 

Try some of the following to minimize glare: 

  • Match your room’s lighting to your screen’s brightness
  • Close curtains & blinds when there is sunlight
  • Position your computer away from windows and direct overhead lights 
  • Consider buying an anti-glare screen cover 

Keep Your Screens Clean

Keeping your workspace clean is important, especially for your digital devices. Dust, fingerprints, and stains can reduce the clarity of your screen, making you focus harder to see. Keep your screens as clean as possible to reduce visual strain. 

Care for Your Eyes

These tips can help relieve and prevent irritation from digital eye strain, but don’t ignore consistent discomfort. If you’re still experiencing irritated and dry eyes despite changing your computer habits, you may have an underlying issue. Book an appointment if you experience consistent dry and irritated eyes. Your optometrist can help diagnose any potential problems and recommend the best treatment for your needs.

Written by Dr. Asim Prasad

Dr. Asim Prasad is a native Calgarian who earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Vision Science and Doctor of Optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 2008. Before becoming an optometrist, Dr. Prasad earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Alberta. After working in the environmental science industry for a short time, Dr. Prasad decided to pursue his true passion: optometry.
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