Looking at Light: digital screens and the health of our eyes

Every year the number of people using a digital screen grows. In 2012 over 2 billion people were spending their day in front of a screen compared to only 3 million in 1990. This year the number of children using digital devices for a few hours a day will climb close to 80 million. Gradually we are becoming dependent on gadgets with screens – screens that emit light and into which we stare like mesmerised rabbits.

But we forget the two most important elements required for these screens to work at all – and these are our eyes. Computer screens have come a long way since the 1990s – and modern display screens are geared to affect our eyes as little as possible. However, that does not mean that if you spend all day glued to your computer screen, you are not going to suffer some unpleasant effects.

The working world

Screens today are literally our lifeblood connection to the rest of the world – both professionally and personally. If we’re not looking at a computer screen, then we’re glued to cell phones, tablets, or even the TV. All of this is putting our eyes to extra work and you might find yourself suffering from the symptoms of CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome) which can range from eye strain and blurriness to the painful condition of dry eyes.

You can recover from these symptoms by getting some time away from the screens to rest your eyes. Just like any other muscle in your body put to use, the eye muscles need to rest. There are many ways to take care of your eyes even though you are working daily with phones or digital screens.

Keeping an eye out

Eye exam: It’s a good idea to have your eyes examined once a year – especially if you are a regular, long-day screen-staring person. This can help to pick up any underlying eye irregularities or weakness that may react negatively to long-term use of digital devices.

Upgrade display: If you’re working with an older model screen, your eyes are definitely under strain. Change to a high res, flat-screen LCD screen as soon as you can. These anti-reflectant screens are geared to reduce harmful glare and reflections and are kinder to the eyes.

Eye exercise: Look up from your screen as often as possible. Look at something distant, then back at your screen, then look again, and back again. This helps to relax the eyes and prevents them from becoming ‘locked-on’ one focus distance only.

Magnify text: This just makes things easier and prevents squinting and extra-hard eye work. The bigger the text size you work with, the less strain on the eyes. This usually one of the easiest ways to avoid headaches.

Computer situation: Make sure your screen is directly in front of your eyes and at eye level. If you have to continually turn your eyes to one side or look up or down all the time, you will be straining the muscles. The distance between your eyes and the screen is also important. If the screen is too close, your will have to work to try and refocus continually – eventually leading to eye muscle fatigue and strain.

Remember to blink: This sounds pretty obvious but for some reason when staring at a screen we can go the longest time without blinking than we normally would when our eyes are generally looking around the environment. We become so engrossed, we can forget this natural action – and when you don’t blink, your eyes dry up and become irritated.

Computer glasses: If you’re going to spend a lot of time using the computer, you might benefit from obtaining a pair of computer glasses. These glasses have special lenses that are geared to protecting your eyes from constant brightness when using computers for long periods of time.

Adjusting light to dark: Your screen should give you the option of setting the light to dark factor to your individual comfort. You can set it to auto which will balance the ratio for perfect viewing – but you may want to reduce the light if you find your eyes are beginning to feel tired.

Good balanced lighting in the area where you work: Make sure you work with good lighting that doesn’t reflect on your screen. A window to the side of your computer is better than one in front or behind. Use blinds and curtains to cut down glare from outside and also off other furniture in the room. A lamp near your screen can help to alleviate the harshness of the screen light.

Regular breaks: Take regular breaks. Get up every hour or so and look out of the window, resting your eyes, giving them something softer to look at for a couple of minutes. This refreshes, cools and relaxes the eyes.

Welcome to the world of health and fitness!

Even in today’s busy business world, where our concentration is often on the screens in front of us, we know that people want to take care of their health as best they can. But sometimes we forget the work our eyes do. In tandem with looking after our eyes, we need to look after the rest of the body as well. It’s time for total health! We have developed a user-friendly platform where the general public and personal trainers can meet. Every professional trainer has a unique profile page containing all their relevant information, including experience and contact details. It couldn’t be easier!

Visit us at www.myhealthandfitness.co.za – and find the right health and fitness professional to suit you – an expert who will not only help you meet your personal fitness goals but provide you with all the health and physical care advice you need – from your nose to your toes! And that includes taking care of your eyes.

About My Health and Fitness

Welcome to My Health and Fitness, a rich source of articles to help you become the best version of yourself. From diet to exercise and general health, our content contributors (including Biokineticists, Physiotherapists, and Fitness Professionals) will cover all your frequently asked questions and more!

If you would like to become part of our content team as a health and fitness professional, please email us at info@myhealthandfitness.co.za.

Disclaimer: Our articles are not meant to replace any medical advice as given to you by your doctor or healthcare specialist. Always consult your doctor before trying out a new exercise routine or making drastic changes to your diet, especially where pre-existing conditions are applicable.

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