Have you ever been looking at your computer or smartphone, and suddenly felt your eyes just… burning? Maybe you’ve even regularly felt this way? It’s possible you’re suffering from a condition of which 70 million workers around the globe are at risk: Computer Vision Syndrome.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, researchers are starting to discover more and more people are in the line of fire for developing symptoms. More professionals are using computers for hours on end each day—like bankers, engineers, academics, students, journalists, and more—on top of after-hours use of smart devices. Estimates suggest that roughly 70 to 90 percent of those who use electronics and computers frequently are at risk of developing symptoms.
The symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome are two-fold, according to Amy Babiuch, MD, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic. “When you’re constantly looking at a screen, you have the muscular issues like back pain, as well as the eye issues like spasms, burning, dry eyes, and simply that tired feeling.”
Thankfully, Babiuch says there are a few rules and habits you can keep in mind while using computers and smart devices to cut down on pain and strain.
Adjust your screen position
You want your back to be straight when you’re using a computer, making roughly at a 90-degree angle at the hip. “This means you should tilt your screen so you’re looking slightly downward,” says Babiuch. “You also want to see how close you are sitting to the screen. You should be about 25 inches away, or an arm’s length. If you’re too close or too far, you’ll be straining.”
Retina display screens from companies like Apple have helped reduce the glare, but for some it’s not quite enough. “A screen filter can be really helpful,” says Babiuch. “Or if you’re reading, you can also lower the background lighting so the lighting in your room is similar to the lighting of the screen.”
Look away and blink
Babiuch also notes the 20-20-20 rule is the standard. “Your eyes are made to be used!” she says. “But if you’re experiencing strain and discomfort, then use the rule. You read or use your device for 20 minutes, then look up and focus on something in the distance 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Make sure to blink a few times, as well, to help relax your eye muscles.
If you’re suffering from dry eyes and burning, especially if you have a job where computer use is really important and extended, Babiuch recommends using artificial tears to keep moisture in and reduce pain.
At the end of the day, computers aren’t going anywhere—but you should always strive to keep ‘em easy on the eyes.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.