In my first week of busy season, I noticed a strange pattern. I saw two of my co-workers sitting near me routinely using eye drops while working. They let me know that they used them because their eyes could get uncomfortable while using the computer for 11 – 12 hours a day.
This interaction made me wonder about the consequences of staring at a computer screen for very long periods of time, especially while working during the day and studying for the CPA Exam in the evening. So I did a little research.
Among a survey of 9,700 American adults, around 93% indicated that they spend two hours or more per day in front of a screen, whether it be from texting on a smartphone, reading on an e-reader, watching TV or studying on a computer.
In 2009, it was reported that the percentage of Americans suffering from myopia rose from 25% to 41% since the 1970's. Experts indicated that the reason for the increase of nearsightedness could be from the proliferation of “near-work” such as studying and texting. The eye fatigue experienced after being online for too long is called Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain. Here's what you should look out for to make sure you can identify whether or not you have Digital Eye Strain.
Some common symptoms of Digital Eye Strain are:
• blurred vision
• dry eyes
• neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms could be caused by poor lighting, glare on a screen, poor viewing distances, poor seating posture, uncorrected vision problems or a combination of these issues.
Tips for Reducing Digital Eye Strain
If you tried to lift weights for ten hours at the gym, your muscles would be extremely sore. The same thing goes for your eyes in that taking breaks is necessary to avoid strain and fatigue.
While it’s virtually impossible to significantly decrease staring at a screen when you’re working and studying, some steps to take to reduce Digital Eye Strain are:
Use the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of computer use, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break.
Position reference documents so you do not need to move your head to look from the document to the screen. Documents should be above the keyboard, but below the monitor. A document holder may help since it’s placed upright and near the monitor.
Adjust the placement of your laptop so that the screen is 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. Make sure that your screen is positioned to avoid glare and sit with your feet on the floor so your neck is in proper position.
Make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking will keep your eyes moist and will reduce your chances of developing dry eye.
Get your eyes tested regularly to prevent worsening vision that may go untreated.
Computers are here to stay; we just need to know how to use them wisely to keep our eyes healthy as we continue to use them in our personal and professional lives. Happy studying!