My life is mostly online: I am either staring at my laptop or my phone. This continuous, long exposure to a bright screen started straining my eyes. I started having red-eye, and it eventually affected my sleep — I always felt like I needed to rest but I could not sleep well. I finally went to see my ophthalmologist.
Computer Vision Syndrome
My ophthalmologist is a smart lady, and she also knows me personally. Before I could tell her about my problems, she narrated them for me. I was astonished and asked her how she figured it out. She said it is common across people who stare at a bright screen for long hours for many years.
This condition is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS is not about one specific eye problem, but encompasses a lot of issues that originate from regular usage of computers for long hours. CVS is not limited to adults; kids these days are addicted to video games, tablets, and even cell phones. While kids spend a lot of their time in school without being in front of a bright screen, the after school time can still harm their eyes if they are in front of their favorite gadgets for longer than they should be.
You may find solace in the fact that CVS does not cause any serious damage to your eyes, thanks to our body’s capability to fight and adjust with the changes in environment. However, the element of contrast, which is missing when you read a book, adds a lot of strain to your eyes. If you have CVS you may suffer from one or many of the following symptoms:
- Everything appears blurry: You need to put in effort to see things clearly.
- You see double: You see something and then you see a copy of it a slight distance away from it.
- Dry and/or red eyes: Your eyes are always red and they are dry, causing itching.
- Eye irritation: You feel a need for eye drops.
- Headache: You suffer from mild headaches as soon as you start working on your computer and for a short bit after you stop.
How to stop eye-strain with the 20-20-20 rule
When I asked about what I should do, my ophthalmologist gave me some eye-drops for temporarily relief. She said that while eye-drops will take care of CVS in the short term, I needed to practice an eye exercise to get rid of this problem for good. She told me about a 20-20-20 rule, which says that those who are in front of computers (or any bright screen) for long hours should take a break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
This is one, simple rule that will take care of your eyes when you have to be in front of a bright screen. It is easy to follow, except when you are busy working and you cannot keep track of time — and you skip the exercise for hours and ultimately increase the strain on your eyes.
Being a tech-savvy person, I thought there should be an app for that. I started looking online and I found a simple app called Eye Care 20 20 20 that does only one thing: it sends you a notification every 20 minutes to take a 20-20-20 break. The app has a start button and a stop button. Before I start working every morning, I turn it on, and at the quitting time at the end of the day I stop it. This has regulated my exercise and I noticed the difference the first day. My eyes were well rested, and I slept better that night. It’s part of my regimen now. Other, similar, eye-care apps include Look Up and 20 20 20. There are also programs designed for your computer which work the same way.