Is Studying Hurting Your Eyes?

Students have plenty to worry about already. Everything from paying tuition to meeting deadlines to navigating remote learning (silent or frozen Zoom screens, anyone?), and getting all your reading done. Maybe you’ve heard about the effect of a student’s life on diet and weight — the infamous Freshman 15! — but what about your eyes. Is a student’s life of reading, writing, and constant screen work causing your eyes any harm?

Digital Eye Fatigue and Computer Vision Syndrome

Late nights of concentrated focusing (pun intended) on textbooks, notes, and — especially computer screens — can contribute to eye fatigue. Students’ use of digital devices and screens is particularly harmful because you experience a much lower blink rate while using computers than you do otherwise. According to the Vision Council in the United States, 83% of Americans use digital devices for over two hours a day. At Seema Eye, we think that high school, college, and university students are responsible for bringing up that average.

If you’ve been doing school work for hours at a time, including staring at computer and device screens, and are suffering symptoms of eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, and even neck and shoulder pain, you may be experiencing Digital Eye Fatigue (which is also sometimes referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome). The same study referred to above by the Vision Council found that a startling 60% of those digital device users experience eye strain.

What to do about Digital Eye Fatigue

First things first. Digital Eye Fatigue is not in and of itself an emergency, but some eye conditions are serious enough to warrant emergency attention at an eye specialist in Calgary or at an eye surgeon near you. If you have suffered a sudden change in your vision, are experiencing eye pain or significant redness, make an appointment with an eye specialist in Calgary on an urgent basis.

If your situation isn’t an urgent one, but your still experiencing eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, and neck and shoulder pain after prolonged studying and device use, here are  half a dozen tactics to gain some relief:

Comply with the 20/20/20 rule by taking a 20-second break to focus on something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Intentionally blink more often. Knowing that your blink rate seems to naturally decrease while using electronic devices, make a conscious effort to blink more often.

Move your body. Odd as it may seem, simply getting up from your chair to move your body while stretching and moving around can give your eyes a much needed break.

Get your monitor into the right position. To minimize Digital Eye Fatigue, the center of your computer monitor should be four to five inches below your eye level. The surface of your monitor should be between 20 and 28 inches away from your eyes.

Improve the lighting in your workspace. To optimize the appearance of your screen and to minimize eye strain, move your screen away from any fluorescent lights and, if possible, overhead lighting. Ideally, use floor or table lamps instead of overhead light and close your curtains to avoid glare on your screen.

Take advantage of the settings option on your device. Adjust the brightness of your screen to match the ambient brightness in the room. Your screen shouldn’t be illuminating the room (at one extreme) or appear gray (at the other extreme).

If you can’t remember when you had your last eye examination, consider scheduling one with an eye specialist in Calgary. People between the age of 18 and 60 should undergo an examination every two years, and more often if you have risk factors increasing the chance of eye conditions. At the examination, describe any symptoms of Digital Eye Fatigue you’re experiencing. Eye surgeons near you will look closely to identify any damage being caused and may even recommend specialized glasses or contacts to protect you from eye strain and digital eye fatigue.