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Digital Eye Strain and the 20-20-20 rule

The proliferation of the internet has transformed our lives. Previously we’d pick an actual book to read and step out of our homes to shop. Today, all of our activities have become digitized and our screen time has increased manifold. While convenience is what we’ve gained through our use of digital, our prolonged exposure to computers, cell phones or tablets has led to digital eye strain. This condition is also referred to as ‘Computer vision syndrome’ and can vary in terms of severity. If you don’t know what digital eye strain is exactly, let us break it down it for you and how you can prevent it.

If you are experiencing blurred vision, dry eyes or headaches from intense usage of your digital gadget, you may be suffering from digital eye strain.  Although we cannot eliminate our use of digital, we can take steps to minimize and combat the eye strain caused by it. Eye strain is also caused by a combination of other factors such as excessive brightness or glare of the screen, poor lighting, and improper seating position when you’re looking at your screen especially with activities that require a prolonged level of focus.

According to studies, anyone whose screen-time exceeds 2 hours a day in a row is susceptible to suffer from this condition. As our work lives become digitized, it is almost impossible to reduce digital exposure, no matter how much we’d like to.

Two main factors contribute to digital eye strain namely blue light and glare. As side effects of computers, they bother our eyes like nothing else. Blue light is radiated by digital devices and has a short wavelength. They are also called HEV light and are known to be extremely high-energy. Lying above the visible light spectrum, it is a byproduct of all digital screens. Earlier, the screens did not emit as much blue glare but with the development in technology and as a more economical option in terms of energy, its usage is more prevalent. With all its advantages, the high energy rays of Blue Light are detrimental to our eyes with its capacity.

Blue light is also known for quashing melatonin secretion, something that helps us sleep at night. It is often suggested that digital devices should not be used in bed as it can prevent you from getting a goodnight’s sleep. The more damaging impact of Blue Light includes harm to the retina, therefore it is imperative overexposure to it be diminished.

The second byproduct of digital exposure is the glare of the screen which can enter our eye along with the blue light. The harshness of glare can irritate the eye and cause strain. Some people may be more disposed of to their impact on others and as a result, get a headache and experience eye fatigue.

As a prevention measure, doctors suggest using a 20-20-20 technique to reduce the impact of digital strain. The name itself makes it an easy term to remember. The technique refers to taking a break from your screen every 20 minutes and gaze at something which is 20 feet away, say for example across the room at a side table, maybe. You need to gaze at this object for at least 20 seconds. This exercise, though simple, is an excellent way to rest your eyes.

It is easy to be so immersed in the digital world that you forget to look away. You can set reminders to practice the 20-20-20 rule every 20 minutes. This rule can be applied anywhere, anytime regardless of what you’re using your screen for. Prevention and relief from this condition both are possible if you follow the rule consistently.

Some conditions might aggravate digital eye strain such as uncorrected vision and eye muscle imbalance. In such a case, we recommend you consult an eye specialist. Eye Strain may be uncomfortable but is usually not a long-term condition.

Eye Strain As a Result of Non-Digital Activities

There are a host of different reasons which cause eye strains other than screen exposure. If you’re reading a book or a newspaper, you may be concentrating too hard on the activity and reading without any breaks. Similarly, driving long distances can have a similar impact on your eye and you may experience redness in your eyes or hazy vision. In all these cases, the 20-20-20 rule can be applied. In short, remember and repeat to take a break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds if your activities are causing you eye strain.

The rule is one of the most basic and first defenses which can be used against screen overexposure. Widely recommended by ophthalmologists all over the world, it can also help with potential long-term vision problems. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a human blinks 15 times per 60 seconds on an average. When we are using a computer or a cellphone, the rate of blinking is reduced to one-third of the average leading to eye strain.

Another manifestation of the same rule is to close your eyes every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. You can also get up and involve yourself in mundane activities like getting a glass of water or walking around the room after 20 every 20 minutes to reduce stressing your eyes.

The rule has been endorsed by research and is designed to give your eye some rest. Dry eyes are one of the symptoms of eye strain. You can opt for over-the-counter eye drops to prevent dry eyes. The Eye-drops act as artificial tears and moisturize your eyes.

Another tip that you can use alongside the 20-20-20 rule is to reduce the brightness of your screen and increase the font size of your screen. Whatever you are consuming on the screen, be it a book or a TV show should produce less strain to your eyes, something which is possible by adjusting screen settings. The device should also be at an arm’s length from your eyes and if you feel that your eyes get tired more quickly than usual, get a checkup to ensure you don’t need any corrective measures.