We hear the term “digital eye strain” thrown around quite often, but do you know what it actually means and what are some of the common causes?

Forget what big optometry corperations, tell you about eye strain, it isnt that straight forward.

With the ever increasing use of digital devices, such as phones, laptops and tablets, the human eye, is concentrating more than ever. This lies the risk of digital eye strain and concurrently the solution. digital eye strain, often comes about, due to the reduced blink rate of the human eyes, when concentrating on devices.

Research has shown that the average human blink rate is roughly 20 blinks per minute, and when on a digital device, this decreases to around 11 blinks per minute [1]. Here lies the causes of the most common symptoms you may experience. The front of the eye, is bathed in what is known as the tear film. This layered fluid structure, helps to not only refract the light coming into the eye, but also protect the delicate front surface of the eye, from drying out. With the reduced blink rate, the tear film will evaporate and expose the cornea and conjunctiva to the elements.

Take a second and think about how long you spend, looking at a device up close. 30 minutes or 12hours a day? The continual focussing up close, is another factor, contributing to the tired eyes at the end of the day, most people experience. The eye is not well adapted to prolong un-natural focussing at near, this tired and increases the burden on the intraocular muscles, which help to accommadate and focus on near objects. The over use of these muscles, leads to the feeling of sore tired eyes by the end of the day.

How to reduce the symptoms of Digital Eye Strain

There exisits, many inexpensive solutions to reducing the effect of digital eye strain.

  1. The use of artifical tears or as they are commonly termed, eye drops. These come in many colours, ingredients and treatment schedules. Best to ask your local eye health professional, on which is best suited to tackles your current symptoms and it’s causes. Some commonly used drops are; Alcon systaine and Hyloforte, these can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacist.
  2.  Taking mini breaks, while you work can greatly improve comfort and concentration! The 20-20-20 rule comes into play here. Where after 20minutes of near work, you look 20feet (6m) into the distance for 20seconds. This helps to relax the muscles that control accommadation, as mentioned earlier, thus reducing symptoms of eye strain.

These are just two, commonly used and prescribed methods for treating digital eye strain. Some common and recently popular methods, include the use of blue light blocking glasses, although this method, is unproven and does not improve symptoms of digital eye strain [2].

This blog post and others like it have been written by an OD student and should be taken as such. Please refer to your local eye health professional, for treatment plans tailored to your presentation.