Computer Vision Syndrome: General Strategies

Happy Monday, everybody!

Okay, so, in Friday’s post, I introduced Computer Vision Syndrome – some of the symptoms and three potential causes.
While this is all well and good, for those of you who are experiencing or have experienced symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, it does nothing to address the more important question – what can I do to decrease these symptoms?!
Today’s post covers a few easy strategies for symptom improvement that you can implement at any time – check it out!

Computer Vision Syndrome: General Strategies

1. Take Breaks!
When you’re working on a screen, it’s important to take breaks and give your eyes (and brain) a moment to relax.  As optometrists, we normally refer to this as the 20/20/20 rule (though after this year, that may need to change since anything with a lot of 20s is going to have a pretty bad connotation).  With the 20/20/20 rule, we suggest that you take a break every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Let’s break it down.
– 20 minutes: I think this one is more arbitrary for the sake of easy remembrance, but it’s a manageable time-frame that gives you about 3 short breaks per hour to relax your eyes.
– 20 feet: Seriously, what’s with optometrists and 20 feet? There’s a lot that goes into it, but more or less, 20 feet coincides with optical infinity – which is just a fancy way of saying “the distance that your eyes (well, when you’re fully corrected) are fully relaxed at.”
-20 seconds: This might not seem like a long time, and it really isn’t, but even short 20 second breaks can make a huge difference when it comes to relaxing your eyes!
2. Decrease Screen Time
Depending on your job, this may be more or less practical, but its still a vital strategy.  Some practical tips for decreasing screen time:
-Take an evening walk instead of sitting down to watch a movie or spending time on another device.
-Listen to podcasts, music, or audiobooks rather than watching news or reading articles on phones.
-I’m not sure what devices it’s available on, but, if you have it, try the “play my emails” function rather than spending hours going through them.
-Use voice to text! It’s far from perfect, but yesterday I actually heard of an author putting down the entirety of his first manuscript using voice to text, which he went back and edited later!
-Play a physical game with your quarantine buddies, rather than one that requires you to be on a screen!
-Cut back on social media.
3. Change Screen Settings
This is a huge one for me.  I personally have a really hard time standing bright screens or backgrounds, and can get a headache within a few minutes of trying to use them. Thankfully, there are ways around this that allow me to be much more functional, while still working on computers!
-Decrease screen brightness
-Invert colors or switch to dark mode (there’s normally one available for every app if you look hard enough)
-Increase font size
-Change ambient lighting (if possible) to match your screen brightness
4. Change Screen Distance
Did you know that how close your screen is to your eyes determines how hard your eyes have to work to focus on it?
Believe it or not, distance plays a significant factor in how easily you can focus in on the words on a screen.  The general theory is that the closer something is, the more your eyes have to accommodate or focus to make it clear.  But, since I like math, let’s throw a few numbers with it.
How close do you normally have/hold screens?
So, I’m at my computer right now.  The monitor is… just over arms length away (28 inches or ~71 cm if you want to be precise) – which, I’d say is a pretty typical distance.
To find the amount of focusing necessary at that distance, the formula is 1/(distance in meters).  In this case, that comes out to 1/0.71 which comes out to 1.41 diopters (measure of power).
Ordinarily, it would seem like this is 1.5 times more than you have to focus at distance.  But, in reality, if you’re fully corrected, there shouldn’t be any focusing necessary at distance, and 1.5 times more than approximately zero is still approximately zero.  So we need a better comparison.
It’s not perfect, but let’s go with 1 meter, or just over 3 feet. At this distance, you’re having to focus harder than at distance (in theory about twice as hard), but it’s not bad.  The math is easy, 1/1 = 1 diopter of focusing necessary.
So, in comparison, those about 10 inches make it 1.5 times harder to focus.
No big deal?
Let’s keep going.
I don’t know if you guys are anything like me, but I rarely hold things – my phone, a book, etc at this distance.  I mean, it’s farther than my arm can even reach!  So let’s change the numbers up.
Say you like to read with your arm slightly extended.  I’m not super tall, but for me, that comes out to 20 inches, or almost 51 cm.  Using the same math:
1/0.51 = nearly 2 diopters, or twice as much effort as something 3 feet away.
But, what about when your arm gets tired?  I know I’m much more likely to hold my elbow against my chest to read.  This distance comes out to about 16 inches, or 40 cm.  Check the math – we’re up to 2.5 diopters.
Or, what if you’re like me and tend to hold your phone even closer? Between 8 (20 cm) and 10 (25 cm) away? Now we’re up to 4-5 diopters.  That doesn’t seem like that big of a jump, right?  But making something 4-5 times harder? That’s a big change!
Thankfully, as a rule, our eyes are pretty good at adjusting for this change – especially at a young age – but if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome, check your screen distance.  Even some mild changes can make a big difference!

Well, that last part took a bit of a tangent. Sorry, y’all!  For the sake of post length, I think I’ll cut this one now and plan on discussing specific treatments for computer vision syndrome in a later post! Stay tuned!
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me!  If you’ve enjoyed this article, please subscribe, or like my page on Facebook!

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