Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to avoid digital eye strain

How to avoid digital eye strain
Teary-eyed before a computer? Here's the perfect plan to protect your eyes in the digi age.

Possibly 21 st century's most common health complaint is tired eyes. Digital eye strain — symptomised by blurred vision, red or dry eyes, headaches, neck and back pain — is the result of staring at cell phones, tablets and laptops for a major part of the day. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), the medical term for digital eye strain, is best avoided by being aware of it. When you view digital media devices in close range, thousands of pixels that make up the content you read, are not as visually simplified as say solid lines and shapes that characterise printed text.

Dr Shashi kapoor, professor of ophthalmology at JJ Hospital, says, viewing a computer screen forces your eyes to work harder. "The ciliary muscles of the eyes work the most when a digital device is in use. These get exhausted if you are immersed in close range reading. Some people make the mistake of taking a break from viewing monitors by leafing through a magazine or texting. That's self defeating because the same muscles are put to use."

Blinking the eyelids is critical in keeping your eyes moist and maintaining optimum vision. Follow the 20-20-20 rule (take a 20 second break every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away). In an airconditioned office environment, eyes can dry up faster. Dr Preetam Samant, eye specialist at PD Hinduja Hospital, says, "When you don't blink enough, tears evaporate faster causing itchiness and redness of eyes. Blinking also helps your eyes refocus. The solution then is to remember to blink more often when sitting on your laptop, or use eye drops or splash your eyes with water every two hours."

Give a high five
Another interesting tip is to make sure your computer screen is far enough from your eyes, using the 'high five test' : If you can't give your display a proper high five, you are sitting too close. It should be right in the line of or just below eye level, so that the viewing angle doesn't exceed 35 degrees (see illustration).

Don't be a night bird
What time of day you choose to work on digi devices can make a difference too. Working on your laptop into the night makes your pupils dilate so as to let more light enter them. But to enable any 'near work' like reading, our pupils are programmed to shrink, so as to facilitate smoother reading. This leaves your pupils confused," says Dr Samant. Make sure you have a night lamp that matches the monitor's brightness , and use computer eyewear.

Hold it!
Smart phones, says Dr Kapoor, are best held just below eye level and at a distance of 12 inches from the eyes. Enlarge font size and browser settings for viewing comfort. Most cell phones and tablets now possess LED screens, which emit bright, blue light which are far from kind to the eyes. When blue light strikes the eye lens, it refracts and makes other objects in surrounding view go in and out of focus. "To offset this, we often end up squinting, leading to eye fatigue," he says. "Holding cell phones too close means your eyes go into a ciliaric spasm. So when you complete your work, and look away, visuals don't register easily, and things appear blurred."

Apps to the rescue
An app called f.lux works wonders say users, warming up your computer display at night to match indoor lighting. Another effective app is Screen Shade. It brightens or darkens your room after considering ambient light levels.

Top 5 tips
- Keep ambient light dim enough to match the screen's brightness
- A backrest supports the spine, straightens posture
- Monitor should be at eye level or just below
- Viewing distance should be exactly an arm's length away
- Viewing angle should be 30-35 degrees from the monitor

Times of India

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