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How to Avoid Digital Eye Strain at the Office

Most of us spend several hours in front of them every day—computer, tablet, and smartphone. It all adds up to a surge in eye strain.

"Digital eye strain can cause a variety of symptoms," says Marissa Larochelle, MD, an ophthalmologist at John A. Moran Eye Center. "In addition to visual fatigue, you might experience blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches. These symptoms arise because we blink far less often than normal when staring at a screen. Blinking is a must, as it keeps the surface of the eye moisturized."

Fortunately, looking at these devices for extended periods of time won't cause permanent damage. Still, it can result in discomfort and hinder getting through some workdays.

Best practices for managing screen time in your office

Here are some simple adjustments to ease the discomfort of eye strain:

  • Position your computer screen to avoid glare.
  • Sit 18 to 25 inches away from the screen—approximately arm's length. 
  • To prevent your eyes from drying out, make sure your eyes look slightly downward on your screen, rather than straight ahead or far below. 
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule, so you remember to blink. Set a timer to remind you to look 20 feet away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. You could also just close your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. If you have a window in your office, take advantage of the view with every break.
  • Use moisturizing eye drops to relieve dry-eye discomfort. Stick with "artificial tears" rather than drops designed to reduce redness, as they tend to exacerbate dry eye.
  • Consider using a humidifier in your office, especially if you live in a cold, dry area and when your furnace is blasting heat.
  • If you wear glasses, ask your eye doctor about computer glasses with progressive lenses designed for focusing on computer screens.
"These simple practices will go a long way in helping at-home workers who sit at computer screens protect their eyesight."
Marissa Larochelle, MD

What about blue light glasses?

"Although I do get asked about blue-light-blocking glasses, I don't endorse them, nor does the American Academy of Ophthalmology,” Larochelle says. “While some people may find a subjective improvement in eye comfort while wearing them, there is no scientific evidence that blue light coming from a computer screen is harmful."