How To Fight Eye Strain as Winter Cold Approaches

eye strain at workFor wide swaths of the country, we’re facing that time of year when the atmosphere just dries up due to winter cold. Now’s a good time to start thinking about ways to reduce eye strain as we constantly stare at our digital devices of all shapes and sizes.

The University of Iowa refers to a condition called, “Computer Vision Syndrome.” It says, “Computer Vision Syndrome affects 75% of the people who work on computers, most markedly those over the age of 40.” So that’s another reason middle age can be so cruel.

According to AllAboutVision.com,“With so many of us using computers at work, computer eye strain has become a major job-related complaint. Studies show that eye strain and other bothersome visual symptoms occur in 50 to 90 percent of computer workers.”

It offers this technical solution for updating your hardware: “When choosing a new flat panel display, select a screen with the highest resolution possible. Resolution is related to the “dot pitch” of the display. Generally, displays with a lower dot pitch have sharper images. Choose a display with a dot pitch of .28 mm or smaller.”

The site adds, “If you see a lower refresh rate (e.g. 60 Hz) noted on an LCD screen, don’t worry — this refers to how often a new image is received from the video card, not how often the pixel brightness of the display is updated, and this function typically is not associated with eye strain.”

Here’s one last tidbit of advice from AllAboutVision.com. “[C]hoose a relatively large display. For a desktop computer, select a display that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches.” Oops, this piece is being written on a 13-inch laptop. Time to consider upgrading.

Immediately, there are 4 tips you can follow that don’t involve updating equipment, according to this article from TechRepublic.com. It says:

  • Take Breaks – figure on taking screen breaks every 15 minutes or so for optimal effect. (I’ll be right back.)

  • Make Your Font Bigger. When writing, for example, consider setting your documents to 150 percent. If reviewing a document, set it to 200 percent because your concentration can be even more intense.

  • Match Your Screen Light to the Room Light. That means dimmer rooms get dimmer screens. Makes your eyes work less hard. It also means brighter rooms should have brighter screens so you’re not compensating by squinting.

  • Don’t forget to blink. Sounds simple but it’s something people overlook. The University of Iowa article above says, “As we stare at the computer screen or while reading, our blink rate decreases. We actually blink 66% less while working on the computer. This will cause your eyes to feel dry and to burn.”

There are also things that can be done in terms of ergonomics and computer position, according to the University of Iowa. The article says, “Reflections off your monitor can may your eyes tired. You may find yourself squinting or developing a posture that is fatiguing in order to get around the glare.”

Here are some of its position tips:

  • Position your computer so there is no window in front of or behind your monitor
  • Adjust or add window blinds
  • Overhead lights can cause glare: change light bulbs to a full spectrum light or a lower wattage light.
  • Use a task lamp that shines only on your paper but not in your eyes or on the monitor

When it comes to ergonomics, the study says, “Poorly set up workstations will cause pain due to repetitive injury. This is especially a consideration in people over 40, who have a decrease in focusing ability and rely on bifocals.”

Here are some of its tips:

  • Lower your monitor if you use a bifocal, so you are using the proper focusing area of your glasses … Raise your monitor if you don’t use a bifocal.
  • Try to position your monitor about 20 – 26 inches away.
  • Consider computer glasses. These can be worn alone or over contact lenses.
Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.