Blog post by: Eye Physicians of Long Beach

Woman in bed looking at her phone screen in a dark room

Wake up, scroll through Instagram and Facebook. Get to work, check your email and start your day while staring at two screens. Sound familiar?

There’s no doubt about it, we live in an increasingly digital world. For work and pleasure, screen time takes up hours each day. But what’s that screen time doing to your eyes? Keep reading to find out more!

Have you heard of digital eye strain?

Spending hours every day staring at screens and our phones can take an impact, especially on our eyes. Millions of Americans suffer from a condition called digital eye strain.

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You might have this condition and not even know it! Some common symptoms of digital eye strain include:

  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Feeling like you can’t keep your eyes open
  • Headaches
  • Experiencing blurred or double vision
  • Burning eyes
  • Itching eyes
  • Sore neck, shoulders, or back
  • Being unable to concentrate
  • becoming more sensitive to light

If you think you might have digital eye strain, talk to your eye doctor. Even if you’re not suffering from digital eye strain, there are things you can do to prevent it.

Reduce glare

If you work near a window, do your best to reduce glare near your computer screen. Glare is one of the biggest reasons why people who work on computers squint.

If possible, see if you can get a shade or curtain to adjust how much light comes in.

Adjust lighting

girl looking at phone in bed

Even if you’re only sitting at home watching television, it’s best to keep the room you’re in softly lit. To keep your eyes from working too hard, avoid having any lights shining directly into your eyes.

Follow the 20/20/20 rule

This is especially important if you know you’ll be working in front of a computer for hours at a time. The 20/20/20 rule is very simple!

Every twenty minutes, take a break from looking at your computer screen. When you look away from your screen, look at something that’s twenty feet away from you for at least twenty seconds.

This helps in a few ways. First, it gives your eyes a break from the screen. Second, it helps you remember to blink, which is key if you don’t want dry eye syndrome.

Third, it works small muscles in your eyes that you need to focus on objects. Not working these muscles enough can lead to them breaking down.

Do you suffer from dry eye syndrome?

One of the things that go hand in hand with digital eye strain is dry eye syndrome. With dry eye syndrome, many of the symptoms are almost identical to the symptoms of digital eye strain. You may experience the following:

  • Dry or itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Stinging or burning eyes
  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Light sensitivity
  • A foreign body sensation like something is in your eyes
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At its core, dry eye syndrome is caused by the body being unable to produce enough tears. Healthy tears are made of a mixture of water, mucus, and fatty oils.

It’s this mixture that keeps the surface of your eyes clear and smooth. Your tears also help protect your eyes from infection.

When your tears don’t have the proper balance, it causes dry eye syndrome. Digital eye strain and dry eye syndrome will often go together because looking at screens reduce blink rates.

The average person blinks about 15 to 20 times per minute. This number goes down significantly if you are spending a lot of time looking at screens.

If you are staring at a screen and not blinking, your eyes are more likely to become dry and irritated. Doing this on a regular basis could eventually lead to symptoms of dry eye syndrome, especially if you take part in other activities that may dry out your eyes.

If you don’t want to develop dry eye syndrome, there are things you can do to keep your eyes lubricated.

Stay hydrated

If you want to avoid dry eye syndrome, why not start with hydration? At the least, you should be drinking eight, eight-ounce glasses of water every day.

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This has benefits for the rest of your body as well! Your skin, immune system, and even your joints enjoy the benefits!

If you don’t feel like drinking that much water, you can also get some of your hydration from the foods you eat. Foods with high water content include:

  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Peaches
  • Bell peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Radishes
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Raspberries
  • Yogurt

Consider having a smoothie or salad daily to get more of these healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet!

Avoid dry air blowing on your face and in your eyes

Although it seems like your eyes get dry in the winter, it’s something you should watch out for in every season. When possible, avoid dry air blowing on your face and in your eyes.

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This includes radiators, hairdryers, heat pumps, car heaters, air conditioners, or fans. Having any kind of air blowing right at your eyes is one of the easiest ways to dry out your eyes and should be avoided at all costs.

Add moisture to the air with a humidifier in the winter

When it’s cold and dry outside, it changes the environment in your house as well. If your house feels too dry, your eyes may be paying the price.

Consider buying a humidifier to add moisture inside your house in the winter. This will add much-needed moisture back to your house and let your eyes get the lubrication they need.

How much screen time should you aim for daily?

Now that you know how to prevent digital eye strain and dry eye, you may be wondering how much screen time your eyes can handle. There’s not exactly a number to aim for, but there are things you can do to reduce your screen time.

There’s no way to cut out digital devices completely, even if it would be the best thing for our eyes. So what can you do?

Don’t go to bed with your phone near you

In Bed Phone GIF by Molly Soda

You might be wondering how you can do this when most people use their phone as their alarm. You could go old school and go buy a real alarm clock!

This way, you don’t have to rely on your phone to wake up every morning. Cutting out even an hour or two of screen time could work wonders, especially if your eyes feel tired daily.

Try not to use multiple devices at the same time at home

Many people have a bad habit of being on more than one digital device when they get home. They turn on the TV and then they also continue scrolling through their phones to look at Facebook at the same time.

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Do you really need to watch TV and look at Facebook at the same time? Probably not! In these situations when you’re relaxing and not focusing, your eyes are the ones paying the price.

If you don’t need to be on your phone while watching TV, don’t look at your phone. This can help keep your screen time in check.

Make sure your basic needs are being met before you get on your phone

Kim Kardashian Phone GIF

Digital devices and mindless scrolling start becoming a problem when your basic needs aren’t being met. Are you eating enough? Do you have enough time to exercise?

Are you spending time outdoors getting fresh air without your phone in your hand? If your mindless scrolling is getting in the way of your basic needs being met, you’re spending too much time on your devices.

Living in a digital world doesn’t have to mean eye pain and dry eye syndrome. Concerned that your eyes may be paying the price of your digital device addiction?

Schedule an appointment at Eye Physicians of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA today!