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Seeing the Problem: A Closer Look at Digital Eye Strain

We’ve all got them- Smartphones. Most of them come with an LCD screen. And when you’re staring at a small screen for a long time, you’ll end up with digital eye strain.

It’s easy to overlook this because smartphones are fun to look at. They’re also helpful, functional, and quite eye-catching.

What do they all have in common? A screen!

A small screen too.

With a smaller screen, you end up have big problems.

Health Concerns

The most common type of screen technology is the Liquid Crystal Display- LCD. Thanks to this technology, we get to see rich colors and shapes, all on that little screen you get to hold in your hands…so long as it’s not cracked.

Staring at something that small may not feel like a big deal…until you consider how long you are actually staring at it.  On average, seven hours a day looking at a screen, over one-third of that time is spent looking at a smartphone. This is a big contributor to digital eye strain.

Staring at such a small screen will, over time, affect your eyes. Digital Eye Strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome, results from staring at a screen for extended periods of time. You’ll know it when you feel your eyes become dry and you experience eyestrain. And when that screen is seven inches across, it gets worse.

The effects don’t stop at your eyes, however.  The brightness of the screen can also make your own body believe it’s daytime. While you may be aware that it’s midnight—because you’ve been binge-watching the first season of Daredevil on your phone—your body is thinking it’s still the daylight hours because the LCD display is creating a light source that’s close to sunlight. This effect is similar for computer and TV screens.

If you find yourself watching in bed, even if only for a few minutes, you’re inadvertently messing up your sleep schedule. Unlike Matt Murdoch, who is blind and fictional, you’ll find it hard to get to sleep.  With a sleep cycle out of sync, the door is open to increased stressed levels and high blood pressure.

By taking care of the health of your eyes first, you can prevent other problems as well.

Possible Solutions

Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones in our everyday lives, getting away from them is not so easy.  There are ways to combat Digital Eye Strain though.

The 20-20-20 rule.

Take about twenty seconds to look at something twenty feet away after twenty minutes of viewing time on your screens.Digital Eyestrain

Twenty seconds.

Twenty feet away.

Every twenty minutes.

These short breaks give your eyes a rest from the brightness, as well as allowing them to focus on something else for a change. While the smartphone does connect us to a great many things, taking a short glance at the real world once in a while is always a good idea. This slows down the effects of digital eye strain.

Change the Size and Color of Text

In kindergarten, they taught us to read. Ever since then we do it without thinking, looking at the little letters and words and getting meaning from them.  But the color and size of those little letters and words can have a negative effect on your eyes. The best way to read text is in black on a white background. The background can also be a little yellow too.  You can change that and make it white text on a black background. Whatever you do, do NOT try to read text that is in low contrast to the background. This leads to eyestrain!

Take Care of Your Eyes

For those who wear glasses or contacts, switch it up at least two to three times a week to give your eyes a break. If you wear contacts most of the time, then switch to glasses, and vice versa.  You can also purchase color overlays for your screen to help reduce the glare and make the text easier to look at. There is also anti-glare coating available through your optometrist for your glasses, just ask.

Digital EyestrainFor those who don’t need glasses, or who keep forgetting to switch between contacts and glasses, there are Coding Glasses.  These glasses come with anti-glare and color tinting to help reduce the strain on your eyes! The two most common brands are Gunnar Optics and Gamma Rays.

Temperature, Brightness, and Glare

A simpler, more cost-effective way to combat the strain on your eyes is to adjust the color temperature on your phone. Check your settings to find out how to make the color temperature on your screen shift to warmer colors for dark rooms and colder temperatures in bright rooms.

Also, work to set your screen to match the brightness of your surroundings. The reasoning behind this is our eyes need to adjust to changes in brightness. When there’s a significant difference, our eyes work harder to adjust. Constantly looking from dim to bright and back makes the eyes work harder than they need to.  Lastly, there’s the glare to worry about. If moving and tilting your phone won’t take away the annoying glare, there are glare-reducing screen covers you can purchase to help with that.

Digital EyestrainThe Future of Screens

There is good news; technology is always moving forward.  This includes improving the screen on your smartphone!  Soon, maybe sooner than we realize, Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLED) will take over as the dominant display for our screens.

OLEDs use organic compounds to produce light and display images. So far, these OLEDs have produced deeper blacks, brighter whites, and richer colors than LCD screens.  There’s also the push for screens that are flexible, retractable, or curved.  New designs will require a different display option.  If you’re not taking care of your eyes, however, you may not be able to see these new advances for yourself.


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