Avoiding Digital Eye Strain: Seven Savvy Tips for Journalists and Authors

Published on
April 13, 2012

I rely on my computer to generate and send copy. But sometimes I am so absorbed in an article or chapter, I don't notice the passage of time. Hours later, my back aches and my eyes feel gritty. This makes writing and proofreading harder. Am I the only writer with this problem? The answer is no. In fact, many of us have this condition, yet are almost unaware of it.

Kelsey Sheehy writes about this vision problem in her US News website article, "Digital Education Shifts Strain from Shoulders to eyes." She cites a September 2011 survey conducted by the American Optometric Association. Resuts showed that nearly 70 percent of people ages 19 to 33 have dry eyes and sensitivity to light. Thankfully, digital eye strain doesn't damage vision. However, it does slow your work and motivation.  

Journalist Corey Pederson lists ways to prevent the condition in a Post-Bulletin article, "Digital Discomfort." Pederson interviewed Dr. Bill Brown, an optometrist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Brown sees patients with this visition problem almost daily. What is digital eye strain? Brown defines it as a series of eye and vision problems that affect people who do a lot of work on computers. When we are looking at a computer monitor, he continues, many of us forget to blink. Blinking helpe to distribute tears in the eyes and failing to bink causes dryness. Follow these tips to prevent or relieve digital eye strain.

1. Turn on more lights. Never work at your computer in total darkness. As I get older, proper lighting becomes more important, and I bought a standing lamp for my home office.

2. Take regular breaks to keep your eyes from becoming tired. The American Optometric Association also recommends stretching the eyes--opening them widely. Family members and colleagues may look at you oddly when you do this, but do it anyway.

3. Remember to blink and blink often.

4. Practice the 20-20-20 rule, as recommended by the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes, stop working and get up. Look at an object that is at least 20 feet awa from you and blink your eyes 20 times.

5. Keep artificial tears handy. I have high blood pressure and take prescribed medications for it. One medication makes my mouth and eyes dry. This dryness goes away instantly with a drop or two of artificial tears.

6. Check the position of your monitor. Sometimes, especially when I'm proofreading on line, I hunch forward to peer at the screen. This isn't good for my back or yours. Instead of leaning forward, move the screen closer to you. The screen should be straight, not tilted up or down.

7. Buy a pair of "cheater" eyeglasses. Even if you don't wear prescription lenses, so-called cheater glasses from a discount store may make it easier for you to see letters, words and numbers on the computer monitor.

Writing and proofreading online were really hard before I had cataract surgery in both eyes and a lens implant. Proofreading is far easier now. Though I don't need to wear bifocals when I'm working, I still have to be aware of digital eye strain. You should be aware of it too. Awareness is the best way to prevent and treat this condition, so take good care of your eyes!