What is Digital Eye Strain and How is it Treated?

Author: Premier Eye Associates

As more and more people work with computers, tablets, and other digital screens, the prevalence of digital eye strain is increasing. This is a condition caused by extended use of a digital device that has specific signs, symptoms, and effects on vision.


How Do Our Eyes Respond to Digital Screen Time?

When our eyes focus on a near object – such as a book – there are a series of changes that occur without any thought.

Our eyes change power through accommodation, our eyes converge to look at a near target, and our pupils get smaller when looking at the near object.

When looking at a digital device, these changes occur more than when looking at a similar object like a book or other non-digital target.

Digital devices also emit strong light from the screens that are not typical when compared to a non-digital alternative.

The additional light can affect the retina and lead to glare or reflections that deteriorate vision.


Digital Eye Strain Causes

The changes that our eyes go through to look at a digital device can overact and cause digital eye strain.

Since most digital devices are used within a few feet of the eyes, the near actions of the eyes can become locked into action and not relax appropriately.

Some triggers of digital eye strain are extended use of a digital device, use of a digital device at a close distance, and repeated patterns of using a digital device.


Extended Use of Digital Devices

Using any digital device for longer than thirty minutes continuously can be considered an extended use of digital devices.

If our eyes are engaged in a difficult near task, like using a digital device for a long time, the eyes can become tired and feel painful.

In cases of digital eye strain, the sensation may present as a pulling sensation or a dull ache around the eyes.


Digital Devices Used at a Near Distance

Even when a digital device is used for a short period of time, it may cause digital eye strain.

When using a digital device at an exceptionally close distance, it may trigger digital eye strain even without a long usage.

Our eyes have to work harder the closer the target is to the face, so if a digital device is held very closely, it becomes difficult to fixate on the device and can trigger digital eye strain.

A good estimate for what is a normal working distance is the distance from the elbow to the end of the hand in a fist. If a device is held closer than this distance, it may cause undue stress on the eyes.

Repeated Use of Digital Devices

Perhaps the most common cause of digital eye strain is the repeated use of digital devices.

Even if digital devices are used for a short time and at an appropriate distance, the repeated use of the devices can lead to eye strain.


Treating Digital Eye Strain

The best treatment for digital eye strain is actually prevention of the eye strain altogether.

It is important to limit the duration of digital device time and to use the devices at the proper distance.

To prevent fatigue from using devices repeatedly, make sure to take breaks often and even have days where you do not engage on digital devices for the entire day.

If digital eye stain is not prevented, it can be treated with lubricating eye drops, coatings on glasses, and reading glasses.

It is always best to discuss all of your eye complaints with your eye doctor to thoroughly understand what may be causing your eye strain and how to treat it.


Dr. Anthony Spina and the staff of Premier Eye Associates specialize in glasses, soft contact lenses, hard contact lenses, and medical eye exams. Call our eye doctor in Auburn, AL today at (334) 539-5391 or schedule an appointment online  if you are interested in learning more about digital eye strain and want to discuss it with your optometrist.  Our optometrist provides only the highest quality eye care services amongst eye doctors in the Auburn Alabama area.

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