How to Prevent Eye Strain from Computer Use: 6 Easy Tips

How to Prevent Eye Strain from Computer Use: 6 Easy TipsComputers, televisions, tablets, smart phones, and e-readers have become irreplaceable parts of almost everyone’s daily life, but studies indicate that overexposure to the liquid crystal display (LCD) screens on these devices can cause a number of eye problems. If you experience any of the following, it may be due to improper LCD use:

  • inability to focus the eyes
  • a frequent need to squint
  • muscle pain around the eyes
  • blurred vision
  • itchy, teary, or dry eyes
  • headaches when viewing monitors or TVs.

Fortunately, these difficulties can be mitigated by the proper use of LCD devices.

How LCD screens can hurt the eyes

The most dangerous affect that LCDs can have on the eyes is the reduction of accommodation power, which is the eyes’ ability to maintain focus on near and far targets. 

  • Nearsightedness: Studies show that after as little as one hour, focusing on an LCD screen makes the eyes less effective at converging or diverging together onto a single point of focus.[1,2] According to one study, the long-term results of this diminished accommodation could include myopia, or nearsightedness, due to the eyes’ adaptation to their routine focus onto a nearby LCD screen.[3]
  • Muscle tension and pain: Eye movement and focus is controlled by six muscles that fatigue when holding the eyes on a single focal point for long periods of time. One study found that after two hours, subjects experienced pain, blurred vision, itchiness, and photophobia due to the tension placed on these eye muscles.[4]
  • Dry-eye disorders: Dryness of the eyes is the most common contributor to computer-related vision problems.[5] According to the American Optometric Association, a lack of tears can leave the eyes exposed to foreign matter, infection, and gritty irritation.[6]

How to prevent eye strain from computer use

Except for some e-readers, all electronics with visual interfaces use LCD screens, but there are many simple ways to mitigate the damaging effects of these devices.

1. Raise your seat

Interestingly, one study found that looking downwards onto a computer screen will decrease eye strain by reducing the surface area of the eyes that is exposed to LCD light.[7] When a smaller amount of light enters the eyes, they are less likely to become dry, strained, or irritated. According to the study, the safest eye level (your view when looking straight forward) is about 5 to 6 inches higher than the center of the computer screen. If possible, an eye level completely above the top of the screen is even better. Remember to keep your head straight and to tilt your eyes downward to minimize their exposure.

Office chairs typically have adjustment levers under their seat cushions. Use these or find a way to lower the height of your monitor. Slouching will cause back problems and is not a safe option.

2. Reduce brightness and increase contrast

The same study found that the best amount of monitor brightness for eliminating glare is the same level of brightness as the surrounding environment.[7] Turn on office lights or reduce the brightness of your LCD so that it matches the amount of light coming from your surroundings.

Contrast is the level of color difference between two objects. Increasing the contrast of your LCD will make smaller letters and objects more distinguishable from one another and reduce eye strain by making it easier for your eyes to focus on precise points.[7] This will also reduce muscle strain from squinting.[4]

Brightness and contrast settings can be found in the options menu of your LCD monitor. If using a laptop computer or tablet, look on the keyboard or in the display settings menu for adjustment options.

3. Blink!

Eyes will automatically stop blinking as frequently when reading from a bright surface such as an LCD screen. This causes the eyes to become dry without your noticing, which leads to many of the problems already described. Remember to blink deliberately, slowly, and completely to ensure that moisture covers the entire surface of the cornea.[8]

4. Move farther away from the screen

The eyes have a natural resting point of focus of about 30 inches in front of them.[9] Forcing them to constantly focus on a point closer than 30 inches will cause decreased accommodation and potentially lead to nearsightedness.[1,2,3] The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends sitting between 25 to 40 inches away from your monitor or device.[10] This will keep the eye muscles relaxed and decrease their tension and strain.

5. Find glare-reducing glasses or screen covers

One study found that spectral glasses can decrease the amount of light and glare coming from LCD screens.[11] Thin transparent filters also exist that can be placed over computer monitors to reduce glare and brightness. This is recommended for users who spend more than four hours per day working on computers. Glasses and filters can be found at office supply stores.

6. Herbal eye drops

Haritaki, vibhitaki, and aamalaki are Indian fruits that are used for many types of eye conditions. They are found together in Triphala eye drops. A thorough study found that nearly 50% of computer users who took one drop of Triphala in each eye, four times per day for 30 days experienced significant improvement in existing eye strain symptoms.[12] The drops are especially effective at treating blurry vision and fatigue.

When combined with once daily oral administration of 500 mg Saptamrita Lauha tablets, Triphala significantly improved symptoms in 55% of patients. Both of these supplements can be found online and at herbal natural health stores.

Share your experience

Do you work with computers for long hours? What techniques have you used to reduce eye strain? Share your experience in the comments sections below.

[1] Klin Oczna. 1995 Nov-Dec;97(11-12):343-5.

[2] Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1987 Apr;28(4):743-9.

[3] Am J Ophthalmol. 1997 Mar;123(3):416-8.

[4] Optom Vis Sci. 2012 Apr;89(4):E452-64.

[5] Surv Ophthalmol. 2005 May-Jun;50(3):253-62.

[6] AOA. Dry Eyes.

[7] J Clin Diagn Res. Feb 2013; 7(2): 331-335.

[8] Optom Vis Sci. 2013 May;90(5):482-7.

[9] Acad Radiol. Aug 2009; 16(8): 947–950.

[10] Occupational Safety & Health Administration. [January 30, 2009].

[11] Vestn Oftalmol. 1998 Mar-Apr;114(2):34-6.

[12] Ayu. 2010 Apr-Jun; 31(2): 236–239.

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UHN Staff

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  • Change the background color in word and text documents to a pale green. The color green relaxes the eye muscles. This works great!

  • That is a brilliant idea, Paul. I do this every day and had no idea you could change page colors, so I think it might be worth explaining how for everyone else:

    In MS Word, click the tab “Page Layout.”

    Click “Page Color” and choose a comfortable color from the drop-down list.

    Change the color back to white before printing or publishing.

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