What is Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain is a condition that is being more and more prevalent. It is caused by several factors, including staring at close-up objects for extended periods of time, exposure to blue light emitted by digital devices, and insufficient blinking. People typically blink 12 times per minute, but when they stare at a screen, they tend to blink only five times a minute or less. This means that their eyes are not being lubricated properly. Symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, eye irritation, double vision, squinting, excessive tearing or blinking, and dryness. Children may also exhibit symptoms such as irritability, poor behavior and a reduced attention span.

Who is it affecting?

Research conducted by the Alberta Association of Optometrists indicates 28% of parents say their child experiences symptoms during or after using digital devices. However, digital eye strain may be difficult for parents to detect because children may not show obvious signs of discomfort. Another survey found adult Albertans spend an average of 10.5 hours using digital devices every day. More than 70% reported experiencing symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, and light sensitivity as a result of using a digital device.

How can I prevent it?

The effects of digital eye strain may be avoided or minimized by:

  • Purchasing computer glasses or glasses with a blue-light filter
  • Taking frequent breaks with screen time → 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds
  • Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting
  • Position the computer slightly below eye level and at arm’s length
  • Increase text size on digital devices
  • Adjust screen brightness
  • Avoiding cellphone or tablet use in the dark
  • Limiting screen time → no more than two hours per day for children aged 5-18, one hour per day for children 2-5, and avoiding it completely for children under 2 years of age
Image source: Friends Life Care