Computer Vision Syndrome

The Writers Guide to Maintaining Healthy Eyes

5 tips to protect your eyes from digital screens

You only get two eyes so it's your responsibility to take good care of them. (Photo: Maxim Ilyahov)

No matter the kind of writer you are, there is one part of the writing process you can't get away from, and that’s spending long hours staring at your phone or a computer screen. If you're like me and you find that your vision is blurry or you have headaches at the end of the day, you could be at risk for computer vision syndrome.

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) also known as digital eye strain is a vision-related problem that results from prolonged computer, tablet, and cell phone use. It’s a real medical condition that could affect your ability to do your job in the short term and even cause damage to your eyesight.

Symptoms of CVS may include blurry vision, double vision, dry, itchy, and red eyes, sore painful eyes, headaches, neck and back pain, and other eye irritation. These symptoms may be caused by blue light, poor lighting, glare, and reflection on the screen, improper viewing distances, poor posture, uncorrected vision problems, or a combination of these factors.

Tips to Avoid Computer Vision Syndrome

1. Avoid eye rubbing

Your eye’s job is to help you see. Its job isn’t to give intense and awesome bodily feelings. Rubbing the eyes feels good to the body, but it does more harm than good.

When I was younger, I rubbed my eyes a lot because I have very itchy eyes. I didn’t know the dangers of eye rubbing. I rubbed my eyes for years until waking up one day and thinking, “Wait a minute, why is life so blurry?” I scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist and I was diagnosed with keratoconus. Never heard of it? Yea, me neither at the time. Read my story here.

There are some people who can use a computer for hours with no issues, but others who have underlying eye issues may be bothered by symptoms after 10 minutes on the computer. Because of this underlying issue, I have sensitivities to bright lights and especially to the blue light emitted by computer screens, cellphones, and TVs.

2. Avoid the blue light

Light is made up of electromagnetic particles that travel in waves. These waves emit energy that varies depending on their length. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. Visible light — the light we can see — is made up of a spectrum of colors including violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.

Blue light is on the high-energy side of that spectrum, which means it can pass through the eye’s protective layers and reach the back of the retina. Blue light has become a subject of concern. All of our devices emit blue light, which can be damaging to the eyes. We tend to work closely with these devices, holding them only inches from our eyes, and many writers use these devices for extended periods of time.

As a writer, you can’t run from blue light, but you can shield your eyes from it by using blue light blocking glasses made specifically for protecting your eyes by filtering out the harmful blue light rays that are commonly emitted from digital screens.

When I first started my writing career, the first thing my mentor told me was to invest in blue light blocking sunglasses to protect my eyes. I didn’t take her advice until recently when I kept battling with eye pain, headaches, and sleepless nights. I struggled to get a good night’s sleep after spending all day looking at my computer screen.

I consulted with my eye doctor and I was told the blue light was the culprit so I immediately invested in a day and night blue light blocking glasses and it has been a game-changer. They feel like a warm hug for my eyes! The specialized orange-tinted lenses in my night glasses block up to 99% of blue light, significantly reducing screen time glare while providing superior visual clarity. They are exclusively designed to help signal the body to prepare for sleep. I wear it continuously for at least two hours before bedtime and I sleep like a baby.

Ever since I got my hands on the glasses, I haven’t had any headaches or eye pain. My sleep quality has greatly improved and I wake up in the morning feeling well-rested. During the day, I use my daytime blue light blocking glasses which allow in the good blue light to help regulate my circadian rhythm.

Photo of author in her day time blue light blocking glasses.

3. Take frequent breaks

Spending long hours in front of a computer means you are limiting the time spent engaging in outdoor activities, which can adversely affect your physical well-being. For every 20 minutes of screen time, you should spend 20 seconds looking at objects 20 feet away. This short exercise helps reduce eyestrain, itchy and dry eyes. Also, remind yourself to blink more often. Staring at a digital screen can affect the number of times you blink, causing eyes to dry. In addition to the 20–20–20 rule and blinking, you can take an actual timeout where you get up and walk away from your screen. It doesn’t matter what you do on your breaks — as long as it’s not staring at a screen.

4. Limit Screen Time

It seems like everything these days happens on a phone, tablet, or laptop. If you’re spending several hours a day writing, you may have to consider reducing screen time in other areas of your life. Instead of reading on your tablet or phone, go old school and read a paperback. You may have to reduce the time spent scrolling on social media.

5. Adjust your computer display settings

Adjusting the display settings of your computer can help reduce eye strain and fatigue. Adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surroundings. Consider changing your background color from bright white to cool gray. Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted for better long-term viewing comfort.

Final Thoughts

In a world driven by computer screens, your eyes are exposed to harmful effects daily. These are a few tips that I practice in my daily life to maintain my vision. Apart from the above, there are various other methods that you can practice to protect your vision. Having the proper lighting in the workstation will improve visual comfort and performance. Lighting should be adjusted to reduce glare on the monitor.

The use of filters can reduce glare when surrounding light sources cannot be controlled. Taking supplements for eye health, eating nutritious foods that promote eye health, and drinking plenty of water is also essential for eye health. And most importantly, you must schedule regular eye checkups with your eye doctor.

You’ve only got two eyes and as a writer, your career is over if you don’t have your eyes, so it’s your responsibility to take good care of your eyes.

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Ghanaian-American | Certified Life Coach | Conscious Leadership | Creative Writing I write about the mystical ✨

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