How To Reduce Digital Eye Strain
Over the last couple years I have noticed an increase in the amount of patients complaining about their intermediate vision. A recent Nielsen Company audience report shows that adults spend about 10 hours a day absorbing media from different sources. Whether it's a computer screen, smartphone or other mobile device, we are spending more time in the near to intermediate focal length than we do distance. It’s become so common for people to complain about this that it now has an official diagnosis. Computer Vision Syndrome aka Digital Eye Strain.
Thankfully, where there is a problem there is usually a solution. In order to keep our eyes fresh we can follow the simple 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of looking at something in the near to intermediate range you should spend at least 20 seconds focusing on something at least 20 feet away. This really works. Unfortunately this is usually forgotten in the course of a busy work day or crunch time study session. So what other options do we have? My suggestion is a set of dedicated computer glasses.
I know what you’re thinking, in a time when we have to keep track of a smartphone, car keys, wallet and at least one set of glasses, the last thing one would need is a set of intermediate glasses. But I want to tell from the perspective of an optician that helps hundreds of people a year, these glasses are worth it.
In order to provide you with the best information as quickly as possible I’m going to break my suggestions into 3 categories: Pre-presbyopia, presbyopia and non-prescription. People that have Presbyopia are usually over the age of 40 and need some type of corrective glasses to help with near vision. This can be accomplished with over the counter "cheaters", prescription reading glasses or multi-focal lenses.
For Pre-Presbyopia People (Try saying that 10 times fast)
Most prescription wearing millennials currently find themselves in this category. Chances are your vision is pretty good for the first few hours of staring at those digital devices but it starts to get a little blurry after 4-5 hours. You may also feel like your eyes start to feel tired and a bit dry. First I would suggest the 20/20/20 rule because chances are you’re not blinking enough. By not blinking your eyes are getting dry and as a result of that your vision gets blurry and you’ll have trouble focusing (mentally and visually).
You may not need a change in your prescription but here are a few suggestions:
Make sure to get your lenses with an Anti-Glare coating. All of these digital devices are casting light and causing reflections on your lenses. Though you may not notice it, subconsciously your mind is working to see past those reflections. Think about it this way, having lenses without Anti-Glare is like having a dirty windshield on your car. It makes a big difference at the end of the day when your vision has been free of impediments like glare.
A light amber tint could also help but if you only have one set of glasses, having a permanent tint is not something most people want to wear all day. I recently tested out a set of glasses by Gunnar Eyewear and I really enjoyed the comfort of the frame and the color of the lenses were pleasing to look through. But when I took a walk through our city’s Japanese Garden I noticed the water in the Koi Pond looked a bit dirty. Turns out I had forgotten I had the glasses on and the amber tint was causing the color change. So in my opinion, lenses with this type of tint would be best left at the computer desk or put in your bag just to use when needed. See my video review here.
For People with Presbyopia
If you’re reading this section chances are you already have a prescription for reading glasses. If this is the case, you may not need to go back to your doctor in order for them to write a prescription for intermediate vision. Many times a simple phone call will do. Now, not everyone has their computer monitors at the same distance so if you wanted an exact focal length then I suggest that you measure the distance between yourself and the monitor and take that to you eye doctor so they can write a prescription that gives you that exact focal length.
Single vision intermediate glasses are great if you’re just looking at a monitor but if you find yourself needing both intermediate and reading in one set of glasses then you should consider occupational progressives. These are no-line multifocal lenses that will give you intermediate focal length at the top of the lens and near vision at the bottom. The exact amount of intermediate and near area will be determined where your eyes sit in the frames you chose. I highly recommend working with an optician in order to have the greatest success with any type of multifocal lenses.
Keep in mind that an intermediate prescription will be blurry at a distances farther than arm’s length. Most of my patients have been fine with sacrificing the quality of their distance vision while they are working since they spend the majority of the time working within a 3-4 foot radius.
The last, and personally my least favorite option is to get a prescription that falls between your intermediate and near vision. This will allow you to get a single vision lens but neither the intermediate nor the near vision will be as sharp and clear as it could be. This can be a good option for someone that has been unable to adapt to multi-focal lenses.
I always suggest getting the anti-reflective coating on lenses but it is especially useful for computer glasses. Feel free to read the pre-presbyopia section for more information on anti-glare coatings and tint.
For People with No Prescription
Computer glasses can still benefit someone that doesn’t need prescription. I have personally tested the Gunnar eyewear product line and I found their lenses to be quite enjoyable. Out of all the companies that are making products targeting people suffering from Digital Eye Strain, Gunnar Eyewear offers the greatest frame selection. Not only that, but in testing three different Gunnar lenses I found that all of them have a +.25 magnification. Though Gunnar doesn’t mention any of this on their website or product packaging, I believe that this is part of their “patented lens technology”.
Whatever type of visual demand you may have there is something out there that can help reduce the digital eye strain you may be feeling. If you have any questions please feel free to leave it in the comment section below.
Disclaimer: This posting is not meant to diagnose or treat any eye conditions. If you are having trouble seeing or feeling discomfort you should consult with your physician.