Is looking at screens all day harming your eyesight?

Between Zoom meetings, virtual family get-togethers and going through our entire Netflix queue, many of us have spent the better part of the past year staring at screens. How bad is all that screen time for our eyesight? And what steps can we take to protect our eye health?

Computer vision syndrome is the result of prolonged use of computer, smartphone, tablet and e-reader screens. There are steps everyone should take to reduce the damage to their eyesight.

What causes computer vision syndrome?

There are two things that happen when you are in front of screens for a prolonged period of time. The first is a reduction in blinking, from 15 times a minute to five or seven times per minute. This causes your eyes to dry out, which can lead to blurry vision and discomfort.

An increase in eyestrain may also occur when you look at bright screens or screens with glare without the right prescription for your eyes. Increased eyestrain can also happen if you’re looking at something up close, like your phone. The more your eyes strain, the harder it is to focus, leading to blurry vision and headaches.

What can you do to reduce the problems of computer vision syndrome?

Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take to protect your eyesight while in front of a screen:

  • sit about two feet away from the computer screen;
  • position your computer slightly lower than eye level. Four or five inches below eye level is ideal;
  • reduce glare by using a matte screen filter. These are available for computers, smartphones, tablets and e-readers;
  • further reduce glare by using screens in environments with soft lighting;
  • increase the size of text on the screen, which can help reduce the strain on your eyes;
  • use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And every two hours, take a 15-minute break to rest your eyes;
  • remember to blink frequently, which will help prevent your eyes from drying out.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers comprehensive ophthalmology care, including laser procedures and surgery. The Optical Center at Penn Highlands DuBois offers hundreds of name-brand eyewear choices and contacts. Soon, the Optical Center at Clarion will be offering these same services.