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As it stands in today’s society, it is commonplace to use computers in the work place, at home and even at the self check-out terminal of your local grocery store. Let’s face it, screens are everywhere and they are not going anywhere. It is estimated that young adults use their smart phones for an average of 4 to 5 hours each day. However, the inherent problem with the daily use of smart phones, computers, e-readers and other electronic devices is the risk of digital eye fatigue and eye strain known as Computer Vision Syndrome.

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, symptoms of eye strain include tired eyes, dry eyes, headache and excess watering of your eyes. It is important to take the necessary steps to maintain good eye health.

Get your Eyes Checked

Make a point to visit your eye care specialist for an eye assessment if you are having symptoms of eye fatigue. Your doctor will want to rule out more serious eye issues and outline how you can correct and prevent long term vision problems. At your appointment, let your doctor know:
• how long you spend on your electronic devices each day at work and at home
• how you use your device and how your work station is set up
• how the lighting is set up at your work station
• how far your eyes are from your screen when you work

Computer Ergonomics

There are many ways to prevent the vision problems that can arise from constantly staring at screens. One of the first things to do is position your device or computer at the proper distance from your face. Position yourself at an arm’s length from your screen. You’ll also want to keep your screen free from dust or finger prints as a dirty screen will make it more difficult for your eyes to focus.

Change your Settings

Switch your lighting display on your tablet or smart phone and enlarge your text. The short wavelength blue light emitted from electronic devices is known to cause eye strain. This spectrum of light is also known to be more stimulating, therefore if you use your smart phone or tablet right before bed, it can interfere with the quality of your sleep. Switch your display to an orange or red spectrum to reduce eye strain. On some devices, this is known as night mode. Whether you work on a computer, tablet or smart phone, consider enlarging the font size. The more your eyes have to work to focus on each word on your screen, the higher your risk of eye fatigue and headache.

Ambient Lighting

When using your screen, beware of the lighting in your room. Reduce overhead fluorescent lighting by dimming the lights or if it is possible, switch to full spectrum lighting which tends to be gentler on your eyes. Also, ensure that the light from your window or lamp is not shining directly into your eyes. If it is not possible to reduce your overhead lighting, try turning the overhead lights off and use a side lamp at the corner of your desk or on the floor positioned in a corner of the room. Beware of glare. To reduce the glare reflecting onto your computer screen, use a protective anti-glare cover for your computer monitor, tablet or phone. Anti-glare screens obtain a matte finish which will allow your eyes to focus easier.

Take a Break

If you spend a lot of time looking at your screen, remember to take breaks to reduce focusing fatigue. Some optometrists may recommend the 20-20-20 rule. This rule requires that for every 20 minutes on your device you follow with 20 seconds off of your device staring at something approximately 20 feet away. Also, remember to get up from your work station to move, stretch and to get fresh air.

Headache, tired eyes, red eyes and watery eyes are symptoms of digital eye strain and with an increase in technology eye strain is becoming a common complaint at doctor’s offices. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, check with an optometrist to rule out a more serious health problem.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose is a naturopathic doctor and a registered acupuncturist with a family practice located in the Beaches area of Toronto. She graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences. In 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine where she completed 4 years of study and a clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic and at the Sherbourne Health Centre where she worked with patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Olivia is also the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a program that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination in Toronto fertility clinics. In practice, her special areas of interest include stress management, heart disease, digestive health, infertility, pediatrics and weight management.

In her free time, when she is not at the spa or spending time with her husband and tea-cup Yorkie, Dr. Rose guest lectures at corporate events, local groups and schools. She is featured regularly as a health expert on Global Toronto’s “News at Noon”. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and upcoming events please visit, www.oroseND.com.