You’re not alone! With today’s digital world, most people end up in front of a screen all day. If it’s not their computer, it’s their phone. It’s not just older patients, either. I have had young, school age kids that complain of eyestrain, fatigue, and even headaches at the end of the day with near work. Let’s talk about the why first, and then we’ll go into some helpful solutions.
The closer and smaller an object is the more work it takes for our eyes to bring it into focus. This is called accommodation. The focusing system in our eye that allows us to accommodate depends on a muscle that changes the shape of the lens in our eye. When the lens rounds up, we get more power. As we get older, the lens in our eye becomes less flexible and the muscle has to exert more effort to change the shape of our lens.
When we look at things up close all day, we are doing work. The amount of work varies depending on a person’s prescription. Generally, I like to think of looking at a computer like holding up a 1lb weight. Pretty much everyone can do it, BUT if you did it for 8 to 10 hours a day your arm would be pretty sore and achy. Now, some people hold that weight up the entire time they’re awake! Those who work on a computer all day, then play video games or get on your phone once your work day is done, I’m talking to you.
After all we put them through, it’s only natural that after working on a computer all day our eyes would be tired. What can we do to help?
To start with, I recommend the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes of near work, stop and look up in the distance 20 ft away for at least 20 seconds. This allows your eyes a chance to take a break and reset.
There are several lenses that can be helpful, and I’ll go over when and for whom they are the most useful. Keep in mind, these are all generalizations and an in-depth conversation with your optometrist or optician can help you figure out which is best for you.
Anti-Fatigue Lens: This lens is great for several situations. It’s great someone under 40 who spends a lot of time on their phone and is getting eyestrain or someone who is in a classroom and has to go back and forth between the far and near quickly. This lens is good for younger people who do not want to wear a pair of glasses that will only let them see up close because they need to go back and forth between near and far objects.
This lens is also good for those who are approaching 40 and starting to have problems with up close but aren’t ready for a progressive.
This option is generally NOT good for someone over 40 or who works on a computer that is at eye level.
Single Vision Computer Glasses: This is one of the most common solutions for patients who work on a computer. This is a separate pair of glasses that makes it so you don’t have to work as hard when you look at the computer. It lets your eyes relax, which reduces or completely gets rid of headaches or eye aches. They are generally for people who are exclusively on the computer for many hours a day and experience eye strain. When you look at the computer with the glasses on, it will be nice and clear but looking out away from your computer will usually be blurry. You may have to switch to a different pair of glasses for distance and walking around, but that is not always the case depending on a person’s prescription. This is a great option for someone with large multiple monitors.
Progressives: Progressives are where the top of the lens you look through at eye level is for the distance, and you get a gradual progression through the lens to the strongest part for reading at the bottom. With a regular progressive, where the top is set for the distance, the computer is the one place it usually doesn’t work well. In order to get any help seeing the computer you have to tilt your head up and use the narrowest portion of the lens to see huge computer screens. This means 1) you give yourself neck problems from the strained posture 2) most of the computer screen will seem distorted and you have to move your head around for it not to be distorted. I kid you not, I have had a patient who was seeing a chiropractor and multiple other doctors due to headaches and neck pain because of this. All his issues were solved with a pair of single vision computer glasses.
Having said all that, depending on a patient’s monitor position or work load, adding a progressive into their current distance prescription can help on the computer. This definitely needs an in-depth discussion to figure out if it’s right for you.
Office Lens: This is a category of customizable progressive lenses where you can set the area at eye level for an intermediate distance. For most patients that means the computer. However, these lenses are fantastic because they can be customized for how far in the distance you want to see past the computer 3 ft, 5ft, 12ft. A huge advantage is it can give you help on the computer, but you can still have the lenses set so you can see someone come into your office 10ft away. Can you drive in these lenses? No. Will you need to switch pairs if you get up from your desk to walk around? Yes. Will you get to see your computer nice and clear without having to move your head into weird positions? Yes. Will you also get to read small print that’s closer than the computer? Yes.
This is a great option because it will let you go between the computer and phone or up-close print without having to switch glasses again. This is a popular solution for patients 55+ who spend a large portion of their day on the computer. Most of these patients have both an office lens as well as a progressive lens for driving.
These are not the only options out there. There is an endless variety depending on your prescription and what other tasks you are doing. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call or better yet drop in and ask.