August 21, 2014

Don’t stare at this screen for too long!

Computers are supposed to make our lives easier but staring at the screen for much of the day can cause serious strain on the eyes.

An optometrist says she’s seeing more Iowans, especially folks over 40, who have computer-related eye problems. Dr. Patty Fries calls it “tired eye” syndrome.

“After using the computer for an hour or more, feeling like you can’t see clearly far away or up close, feeling the need to blink more often, headaches, a feeling of eye strain and even stiffness in the neck and shoulders — all can be signs of computer vision issues,” Dr. Fries says.

Studies show about 10-million eye exams are given every year nationwide just because of computer vision problems. She says one of her solutions is called the 20-20-20 plan.

“Every 20 minutes, look at something that’s at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” Fries says. “What this does, it helps relax the muscles in the eye. I advise people who suffer from dryness to keep a bottle of artificial tears near their computer. At least once an hour, put a drop in. Try to do this before they even start to feel dry, just to combat the dryness.”

Fries says people who use bifocal lenses typically have problems, too, because of the constant tipping of the head.

She says, “I usually prescribe either a single-vision pair of glasses without the bifocal that’s set for their computer distance so they can look comfortably at any position or posture, or even a lower-power pair of glasses for the computer that still has a bifocal that allows them to do everything at the computer without having to adopt an unnatural posture.”

Fries’ office is at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.