If just the thought of going deviceless gives you the heebie-jeebies, you’re not alone. Most of us depend on digital technology for everything from work to entertainment to checking the weather before heading outside.
But looking at a screen all day can be hard on your eyes. There’s even a name for it: computer vision syndrome, aka digital eye strain. It can cause headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes, according to the American Optometric Association. It’s a growing problem — some studies show it’s now the most common workplace injury — and it can affect your productivity on the job.
That means eye protection is more important than ever during the age of device screens. If you live and die by WIFI, take a gander at these tips to safeguard your vision:
Take regular breaks
Looking at a cellphone or computer screen for a long period of time without looking away from the device puts stress on the muscles that focus and accommodate the eye, according to vision expert and ophthalmologist Ming Wang, MD, PhD. Accommodation muscles help you focus on an object as the distance varies, and they get a lot of work when you’re looking at a computer. The result is fatigue and possibly premature eyesight degeneration.
“Just as you need to exercise your body on regular basis, you need to exercise your eye accommodating muscles to keep them young,” Dr. Wang said. He recommends the “20-20-20 rule” to give your accommodation muscles a break. After 20 minutes in front of your computer or cellphone, take a break for 20 seconds and look away at a distant object that is at least 20 feet away to let your accommodating muscles relax. Set a timer on your computer or phone to remind to you take a break periodically.
Eat your veggies
Nutrition can play a big role in the health and resilience of your eyes. “Your grandmother was right: Eat your carrots,” Wang said. The vitamins in carrots and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale can help protect against environmental damage.
Other nutrients that may reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration include lutein and zeaxanthin. They’re found in green leafy vegetables, corn and eggs, and may be added to other foods. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, can help, too.
Cut the glare
Ultraviolet light has been shown to accelerate the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, Wang said, so give your eyes a break by using sunglasses when you’re away from the screens. Filters and apps can help you dim the blue light that may cause eye strain during the day.
In addition, research shows people tend to blink less when working at a computer screen. This reduces the amount of tears bathing the eyeball and your eyes may feel dry or scratchy. Eye drops can reduce the symptoms, but blinking more often will also help keep eyes healthy and comfortable.
Get checked out
Periodic eye exams can help protect your vision and should be a regular part of your health care. If cost is a concern, see if your employer offers vision insurance to help lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Look for a plan that includes an annual exam as a basic benefit, and look for an eye doctor that participates in the plan’s network for maximum benefits and discounts.