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NOW READING Are Your Eyes Bothering You From All Of That Non-Stop Zooming and Streaming? What a Top Optometrist Wants You and Your Family to Know
July 1, 2020

Are Your Eyes Bothering You From All Of That Non-Stop Zooming and Streaming? What a Top Optometrist Wants You and Your Family to Know

Whether you’re still working from home or have returned to your place of business, chances are you can answer this question without batting an eye: “Are you or your kids spending more time staring at computers, phones, or televisions since the lockdown?”



The answer is probably a resounding, yes. While a little binge-watching may have quelled some of the anxiety you felt about the pandemic, there’s a fairly good chance that your eyes aren’t fairing so well thanks to all the extra blue light those devices emit. And, if your eyes hurt, think about how your children’s must feel.



Woman straining her eyes by her computer
Unlike traditional media, such as books and magazines, digital images are less precise, which makes them harder to read (istock/fizkes)


Close-Contact Viewing Really Can Damage Your Eyes


Remember being told that if you sat too close to the TV, you’d ruin your eyes? There’s more truth in that statement than most people realize. Unlike traditional media, such as books and magazines, digital images are less precise, which makes them harder to read. Reflections and glare from glass screens contribute to eye strain and fatigue as well. Because of these factors, experts recommend that digital devices be used from a safe viewing distance.


  • Mobile phones – 1 foot
  • Desktop computers or laptops – 2 feet
  • Televisions – 10 feet or more depending on the screen size


Optometrists have also begun diagnosing Digital Eye Strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Dr. Neda Gioia is the owner of Integrative Vision. She’s also one of the only U.S. optometrists who has completed the Institute for Functional Medicine’s AFMCP module, which teaches clinicians how to personalize treatment based on a patient’s lifestyle, environment, and individual history. Dr. Gioia says that, “CVS causes headaches, blurred vision, and even neck pain.”



Top optometrist Neda Gioa profile photo
Dr. Neda Gioia is the owner of Integrative Vision and one of the ony US optometrists who has completed the Institute of Functional Medicine’s AFMCP module



The Device Isn’t The Only Problem


Since Zoom meetings and online education won’t be going away anytime soon, it’s important to fine-tune your online viewing habits as well. That laptop on your kitchen table probably forces you to focus at a different angle than a traditional external monitor would. And, if you’re reclining or working from a bed or sofa, your eyes probably aren’t level with the screen. Both of these factors contribute to eye strain, as does insufficient lighting and poor posture. When working on your computer, make sure your shoulders are level and that your head, neck, and pelvis are aligned vertically. Make sure your desk or table is at least 26” high and that the screen is only slightly below eye level. If the desk is higher than 26 inches, tilt the screen slightly, so that it’s angled away from about 10 to 20 degrees.



small girl experiencing eye strain due to phone usage
Children are unable to absorb the same amount of high energy, short-wavelength blue light that adults can (istock/kerkez)


Your Child’s Vision Can Suffer Even More Than Yours


As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. Dr. Gioia explained that anatomically, “Children are unable to absorb the same amount of high energy, short-wavelength blue light that adults can.” In layman’s terms, the cornea and crystalline lens behind the iris generally protect the retina from damage, but more blue light passes through a child’s protective lens instead of being absorbed by it. “Also,” she says, “when a child’s focal point is limited, his or her focusing muscle is constantly active, which is not natural or healthy long term, and can induce myopia [also known as nearsightedness].”



Tips and Advice From The Experts


Since the term “social distancing” is now part of our vernacular, consider “distancing” yourself from your device every 30 to 60 minutes to ensure better posture and less eye strain. If you’re an eye-drop addict, ditch the redness-reducing variety, which may make your eyes feel even worse. Dr. Gioia has also created a helpful article full of tips to relieve the pain associated with our newly-expanded digital habits. She covers everything from proper posture while working on the computer to the 20/20/20 rule recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In short, get in the habit of looking 20 feet away from your primary focal point for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. , warming eye masks, and microwaveable compresses also work wonders.


If your eyes are generally healthy, and you’re not experiencing symptoms of degraded vision, schedule routine eye exams yearly for yourself, and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for your children. But if your eyes are excessively dry, don’t work in tandem with one another, or seem unable to focus, it’s time to seek your optometrist’s help. “Dry eye syndrome, convergence insufficiency, and accommodative (focusing) instability” can only be diagnosed by your doctor.


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Tracy is a "quality over quantity" word girl fascinated by eagles and life in a small SoCal mountain community. She believes in the now, has written professionally for 30+ years, and worships at the alters of serum and Sulwhasoo.




Between the cell phone and the computer, we all are going through eye strain. Thank you for the tip on using AZN Labs Hydrogel Eye Patches! I'm wondering if my teens can use it as well? Now, they are homeschooled and are always on the computer and watch shows on their cell phones... which I don't understand! We all want the hugest flat screen in our family room but do everything else on a tiny cell phone screen!


The @AZN hydrogen eye patches would be fine for your teens, Lorrie. They're cooling, soothing, and hydrating.


Wow great tips! This is something that is essential to our daily lives considering our attention has been drawn even more to our devices ever since the shutdown. I'm glad I came across this article.


Thanks, pretty lady! Ever since I wrote this, I've been catching myself with my tablet or phone too close to my face. It's so easy to strain your eyes when using these devices. Now, I make a concerted effort to keep them at a proper distance when working/playing online.


You're welcome! This is so true! Glad you were able to notice. I also have caught myself becoming a little too attached to the screen as well and have found myself having to make adjustments too. You aren't really aware at times.


I have been staring into screens for what feels like 12+ hours a day and I feel like I want to put hydrogel eye patches on my eyes every single night. These tips will definitely help me improve my eye strain, can't wait to try them out!


I have never even heard of the 20/20/20 rule. I am definitely going to try it. Sometimes I have to look away at my screen for a minute or two and it does help wonders. Thanks for the very timely article!


The 20/20/20 rule has helped my eye strain significantly while it was difficult to even schedule an appointment with an eye doctor.


This article is what EVERYONE needs right now. I will be adjusting my lifestyle and workplace to hopefully help with these things. I also have just ordered blue light glasses to hopefully ease strain and headaches as well. I can't wait to see if they help!


Hi Lindsay. I wear GammaRay blue light blocking glasses most of the time. They do cut down on eye strain and headaches. Please report back after you've tried yours. :)


Dr. Gioia says that, “CVS causes headaches, blurred vision, and even neck pain," and through my own personal experience, I totally agree. Our way of life, at this time, requires us to rely more on electronics. Remember to step back and look up! give your eyes a break. Take care of them, same as you would your skin. As you age, you will be thankful you did.


This article is very necessary! A lot has changed in the last few months where more of us are spending more time looking at a screen. We need to be more aware and take breaks. This was helpful


This is so the article i needed today so much great info thank you


Right?! Happy to help, Alena. Rest those peepers! :)


Definitely need to get away from the screens. I find a walk for an hour really helps everyday. Great advice.


Me, too! On average, I spend 9-12 hours a day staring at my computer screen, and I never heard of the 20/20/20 rule until interviewing Dr. Gioia. I have a timer on my desk now to remind me to look away or get up more often.