With the silly season behind us, you may notice a bit of discomfort when returning to work with excessive screen time and near work. Going through spreadsheets and close work doesn’t seem effortless anymore, and your eyes are getting tired more easily. What should you do? We’ve prepared some tips with things to consider if you’re experiencing headaches and migraines.
Determining the Trigger
The challenges with symptoms like a headache or a migraine are that it is non-specific to any ailments. It could be as simple as not being adequately hydrated or beginnings of a more sinister issue. Although it is difficult to find the cause of your headaches, it can be relatively easy to determine what triggers it.
Not all headaches or migraines come about from blurry or uncomfortable vision. For example, certain smells or intensity of lights can trigger your migraine. Certain foods could also trigger your headaches. Working with your GP is essential to determine the cause of these headaches and migraines.
However, after having a conversation with your GP, and you still find that you get headaches and migraines consistently, especially after using your computer, you might indeed suffer from digital eye strain.
Understanding Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain is simply eye fatigue related to prolonged use of digital devices such as your laptop, tablet or phone. Our eyes are designed to focus far in the distance. We have depth perception by interpreting the subtle differences of the images we receive from our right and left eye.
When our eyes are relaxed, they point straight ahead (and ever so slightly outwards). When we need to look at something up close, such as reading a book or using a laptop, our eyes need to turn inwards (or converge) to focus on the same object. If our eyes are not pointing at the same object in focus, it gives rise to double vision. The severity of the double image depends on how misaligned the eyes are in focusing the object.
Bringing our eyes together (convergence) requires effort. Sustaining the level of convergence requires even more energy. Imagine doing a simple chin-up exercise. It’s quite easy to pull yourself above the bar, but to sustain your chin above the bar, your muscles begin to fatigue quite quickly.
What are the signs of Digital Eye Strain
With eye fatigue, you would generally experience;
- reduced screen time
- uncomfortable vision (your vision is clear, but becoming increasingly difficult to continue working on your computer)
- watery or dry eyes
- temporarily blurring of vision when looking away from your screen
- eyelids feel heavy and general ache around the brows and eyes
- may experience along with neck strain
Why do I suffer from Digital Eye Strain?
Think of a professional marathon runner. They train vigorously every day until the day of their competition. Then, after their event, they’ve stopped training for some time after which they’ve decided to return to marathon running again.
- You’ve changed jobs. When you’re working in front of the screen every day, your eyes get used to the vision demand; your eyes will adjust and cope with the situation. Like most things with the human body; When you exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure go up to meet the demands of your muscles. A sudden change in your vision demand, such as from truck driving to an office-based work means it’ll take some time for your eyes to adjust to the new environment.
- You’ve taken a sabbatical. Eye strain occurs quite commonly after holidays and now returning to our 9-to-5 job in front of our screen — just like our marathon runner scenario, returning to training after some time of no training. His legs would’ve detrained and fatigue more quickly (or at least initially) when he resumes training again.
- Your eyes are predisposed to having eye strain. Your colleagues who have been working long hours in front of their screen, and haven’t developed any symptoms of eye strain. You, on the other hand, starts to develop eye fatigue within 20 minutes. Everyone is different. How everyone uses their eyes and how they focus varies. Some people can sustain a convergence longer than others.
What do to should you suffer from digital eye strain
The only way to understand how your eyes behave when you use your screens is to have a comprehensive eye examination. At Capital Eye, your optometrist in Canberra, we extensively evaluate how your eyes work in front of your computer, when it starts to fatigue and along with the advice individually tailored to you on how you can minimise the impact of digital eye strain to your productivity.
- Take regular breaks. If your eyes feel uncomfortable after prolonged screen time, take a quick 5-10min break from your task. Look away from your screen and focus on something in the distance; preferably at least 6 metres away. This would give your eyes a chance to refresh and catch up.
- Visit your optometrist. Your vision may have changed and visiting your previous optometrist will allow them to discuss the changes with you. Your optometrist may prescribe glasses to help your eyes relax while working on the computer or, helping them focus, maintaining clear vision up close.
- Revisit things in a few months. As mentioned, it does take some time for your eyes to get used to the different vision environment. It could be a subtle change or a substantial change in your job. If you feel that your eyes are feeling any better after you’ve given them some time to adjust, the next step is to go and see your optometrist.
The Bottom Line
Headaches and migraines are results from multiple ailments. It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. It is essential to seek medical advice promptly from your GP should your headaches or migraines become more frequent and more intense over time.
Your vision could be a trigger for these headaches and migraines, and often it’s the first checkbox your GP would like to rule out any vision-related headaches or migraines. One of these vision-related issues linked to headaches and migraines are eye strain and eye fatigue; caused by excessive screen time. Visiting your optometrist brings you one step closer to understanding how your eyes work in front of the screen. At Capital Eye, we work closely with your GP to investigate the cause of your headaches and migraines, providing you with assistance and advice along the way.