Computer-related eyestrain – The 20/20/20 Rule

Everybody’s doing it – using screens, I mean.  Smartphones, computer monitors, laptops, tablets – you can hardly avoid using at least one of them, even if you wanted to. With COVID-related changes in schooling and working from home, screen use is way up for many of us,  and so is device-related eyestrain.  What to do?

First off is to use the 20/20/20 Rule.  Every 20 minutes, look away from your device.  Look at something 20 feet (or 6 metres) away, for at least 20 seconds.  Simple, huh?  While remarkably resilient, your eyes and visual system can tire, and then you may experience strain, headache, blurring, and other unwanted effects.  Giving your eyes a break frequently can help reduce these effects.  I am fond of saying that you can only stand on one leg for so long before you tire (unless you’re a flamingo), but if you take a rest every so often, you can do it for a much longer time.

Another fact of screen use is that we blink our eyes much less frequently when we are concentrating on something; your blink rate can be a little as 1/4 of what is normal. The end result is that the eye surface will begin to suffer from exposure  because it’s not being refreshed often enough, and then you get redness, dryness, stinging and burning.  The 20/20/20 rule helps here as well, but you may also benefit from using a lubricant eye drop the add some moisture to the eye surface.  Products that claim to remove the redness are not advised; they’re like nasal spray for your eyes, and can cause your symptoms to actually get worse down the road.  Stick with proper artificial tears, like Systane, Blink, ReFresh, or Hydrasense.

All of the above advice is given with the assumption that you have good vision and up-to-date eyeglasses, if needed.  If you haven’t had an eye exam in a while, that would be a good first step.