We have all been there before; endless hours staring at the screen, eyes burning, feeling the redness collecting as the itching dances in the corners of tired eyes. Eye strain is a real and common issue that affects many people on a chronic basis. Mainly caused by extended periods of staring at electronic screens, eye strain is a real occurrence; computers, cell phones, laptops, and tablets are just some of the culprits that amplify this problem. Below you will find ways to help combat eyestrain, as well as treat and reduce the reoccurrence.
First, we will tackle the right now, the immediate reduction of eye strain and then move on to the future. Since getting rid of electronics would be considerably challengingfor most, offering some effective ways to avoid eye strain in the future will hopefully ease day to day eye fatigue. Learn what works for you; try one, some, all or even a combination to help dimish the harshness of eye strain.
First, is realizing how long you have been on any electronic device. If you have been on longer than twenty minutes uninterrupted, it is time for a break. The eye needs to blink about 18 times a minute in order to stay moist and when concentrating on a screen, the eye tends to blink much less causing dryness in the eyes. So right now, before moving on, blink a few times, long and slow and you'll thank yourself later.
2. Blink, again!
Eye strain from a longer period than an hour or so might need more than a few blinks to help alleviate. Try closing your eyes for a few moments, opening them and focusing on an object at least seven feet away,for about three to four minutes and repeating ten times. Take a few deep breaths and relax your shoulders, helping ease the tension in neck and shoulders, which allows for a refreshed feeling when returning your eyes to the screen. Some doctors recommend the "20-20-20" rule which advocates that every twenty minutes a person is to take a break and to look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
Many times, dehydration of the whole body is a factor that can not only cause but also help exasperate dry, itchy strained eyes. Getting up and moving away from your screen and going to get a drink of water can rehydrate your body and allow your eyes to the moisture needed to continue. You may not even notice that you are thirsty, but people need lots of water and eye fatigue is sometimes a quiet accidental side effect. Getting a refreshing drink of water is a great way to stretch, exercise, and refresh your body also!
4. Cool Off
– If the tension has already set in, or it is starting to build, try a cold compress. Nothing too cold is needed, there is no need to shock your system, just slightly cooler than room temperature. Cold can help to reduce swelling in the body and when applied to the face can help release the pressure and tension on and around the eyes caused by straining too long or too hard. Laying your head back and resting a cool compress wrapped in a soft fabric for a few minutes across your eyes can lessen the tension that eye strain can cause. If ice is desirable, make sure to wrap in a cloth before placing over the eye area.
5. Heat up
– Warmth is also an option if cold is not a preference or unavailable. Warming the area near or on the eyes with either a wet or dry compress can help alleviateitching and dryness by allowing the blood vessels in the area to relax, easing circulation and the tear ducts to moisturize the eye easier. Be careful to not make the compress too hot. Wrap the compress in a soft cloth before applying to eyes and face, lay back and allow the eyes to unwind.
6. Move Around
Stand up, stretch and move away from the device. Turn your back to the screen or place a cloth over it to minimize the urge to keep the focus while moving. If you are on your desktop at work or at home on the laptop, stand up and stretch. Start at the top – roll your neck clockwise and again counterclockwise. Stretch your arms up, try and touch your toes once. March in place, lift your shoulders up and down. Take a deep breath and walk away from whatever you are doing. Save what you are working on and give yourself a break. Count to ten at an even, calm pace and repeat what stretches feel the best to you; simply breaking the focus you have on the screen can reduce the tension building and allow a respite from the pressure.
Take a look at your surroundings. There might be some small adjustments that you can make in order to allow your environment to work better for you and reduce eye strain. Are you in a properly lit area when working with electronic screens? If not and you can adjust the lighting, try to reduce outside lighting and glares. There are also computer screen reflectors that allow themselves to be attached to the screen, minimizing the glare and allowing the user less eye strain. Make sure that when you are sitting and using the electronic screen you are far enough away – at least a foot to a foot and a half – and if viewing the content is difficult, adjusting the screen size within the settings can help if you see easier.
8. Sit Up
It is true what they say, posture is important. Eye strain can be caused by not having your screen at a proper height. When using a cell phone or tablet, people tend to hold them lower and stare in a downward position for extended periods of time forcing a very unnatural strain on the neck and eyes. With computers or laptops, having them either too low or too high can amplify the exertion as well. Make sure to hold the cell phone or laptop screen at eye level and when using a larger device, position the screen about three to four inches below your eyes. Sitting up straight and looking in a direction that is more straight ahead is healthier and less strain on both the back as well as the eyes.
9. Use Your (Other) Senses
When your eyes are overworked, give them a break and use your nose! Try using essential oils the next time you feel the strain or tension of overtired eyes. Essential oils can even be used beforehand to help in the preventing of the tension caused by staring at any electronics too long. Peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary are all commonly used essential oils that can be used in the treatment and are easily found in a multitude of stores. Peppermint and lavender are also helpful in maintaining healthy eyes long term. Besides opening the bottle and gently allowing the smell to wash over you, you can try adding a few drops to your warm or cold compress, using a diffuser, and essential oils can be used topically as well, just make sure to check the labeling first!
10. Visit an Optometrist
Whether you wear glasses on a daily basis or not, you might be struggling with your vision. Eye strain can sometimes be caused not only by staring at an electronic screen but the struggle to actually see and comprehend what is on the screen itself! Schedule an appointment, and take the time to explain your eye strain concerns. It may not be a vision issue at all and while you are there, you can take the time to ask about protective eyewear. Similar to sunglasses, computer glasses help filter the artificial blue light emitted by computer screens, helping to reduce eye strain further so you can use them without a prescription.
11. Eye Drops
While hydrating with plenty of water consumption is always recommended and beneficial, there are times where direct help is faster and when applied to the source of the issue, immediately effective. There are many brands of eye refreshers on the market – formulas range from brands that mimic tears, help alleviate redness, calm itching and restore tired eyes. Since each individual is different, do not fret if the first bottle of drops you try does not remedy your symptoms. Do not use someone else's eye drop or medication under any circumstances and refrain from sharing – eyes can easily pass infections from person to person.
Out with the old, in with the new! You computer screens that is! Replacing your old, not so up-to-date monitor can greatly help eye strain. Old monitors can "hiccup" and whether noticeable to you or not, those hiccups can bestraining to the eyes; a newer monitor such as an LCD monitor will not hiccup, allowing less strain on the eyes and aneasier time finding focus. A higher resolution can make strain on the eyes much less when you are not forced to find clear images in a grainy picture. Screen jumping can cause confusion for your eyes – take a moment when switching from one screen resolution to another.
13. Vitamins and Over the Counters
Of course, to make sure that not only your overall health is doing great, but your daily eye health is in tip-top shape as well, you can take daily vitamins and minerals to help supplement. Such vitamins as vitamin A, C, E with a B complex and the mineral Zinc are all shown to help promote and help maintain eye health. Sometimes, the good old tried and true method of ibuprofen is undisputable. When the eye strain is long term or has been building up over an extended period of time, taking the appropriate amount of over the counter medication can help tremendously.
14. Rub, rub, rub
Now, this is not the free and clear to turn back to your kindergarten days and rub your eyes endlessly, but this is an exercise in relaxing. Create a warmth using friction on your palms and gently, place the palms of your warm hands over your eyes using a light pressure. Try not to use too much of your weight on your eyes, just enough to share the warmth. Using your thumbs, rub your temples with a calm clockwise motion. Make sure you give your eyes enough time to rest, you might need to rub your palms a few times to create the desired warmth and calmness.
15. Get Your Zzz's
Rest is critical for not only a great and smooth functioning day, but also for easing eye strain. Tired and unrested eyes can easily start to fatigue at a much faster rate and can tire easier than well-rested eyes. Getting the proper amount of rest and making sure that eyes get the deserved time away from screens of all sorts is imperative to maintaining healthy eyes are reducing the day to day eye strain. Try to eliminate any unnecessary electronic screen time if at all possible; forcing yourself to read one more blog post only prolongs the strain.
With so many people suffering from eye strain, be bold in sharing these methods with friends. Some methods may work better than others for you and as with and all medications, topicals or treatments, seek medical advice before attempting anything.