5 Ways to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

Pros and cons of electronic devices

A 2013 study found that older adults are able to read better using certain electronic devices, such as iPads, compared with printed books. They offer such bonuses as the ability to increase text size and reverse the color scheme (reading white type on a black background, for example). However, there are drawbacks, too. Eye strain affects 58 percent of adults who use electronic devices, according to a survey by the American Optometric Association. The cause is often the extended use—two or more hours in a row—of computers and other digital devices. Here's how to fix that.

1. Adjust your settings

Enlarge the type, and tweak contrast and brightness until they’re comfortable. Also, softer light and “full-spectrum” fluorescent lighting tend to be better for computer work than regular fluorescent tubes.

2. Blink!

People tend to blink half to a third less often when working at a computer. Blinking moistens your eyes, which prevents dryness and irritation. Make a habit of blinking 10 times slowly every half hour or so.

3. Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. This helps relieve digital eyestrain.

4. Take a break

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends taking five-minute “mini-breaks” every hour to stand, stretch, or move.

5. Keep it clean

Wipe your screen regularly—dust lowers contrast and contributes to glare and reflection.

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into Healthcentral.com in 2018.