We live in an era where technology is everything. We use a weather app instead of looking out of the window, we use news websites instead of reading a newspaper and we constantly tag our friends in viral memes on digital social platforms. Our day-to-day lives have been impacted by this explosion of digital accessibility. One of the most common associations with an increased use of digital devices is tired or strained eyes. This is sometimes known as visual fatigue.
Visual fatigue doesn't mean a feeling of sleepiness and not being able to keep our eyes open. It often manifests itself through some sort of discomfort, with symptoms including blurriness, slowness in focusing, dry or irritated eyes. It can be common among those who spend a lot of time performing tasks at near-viewing distances. This can include reading or looking at digital screens, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
There might even be an experience of physiological symptoms, including neck and shoulder ache. This is often a result of having to physically look down by titling our heads towards the floor to achieve an optimal visual position.
How does visual fatigue occur?
Visual fatigue can happen for a number of different reasons. One of the most regular occurrences is because of an uncorrected refractive error. Refractive errors include myopia and hypermetropia; near-sightedness and far-sightedness respectively.
Wearing the right corrective spectacle lenses, specifically lenses for preventing and reducing eye strain, can help to rectify these problems.
Visual fatigue might also occur from looking at pixelated screens. The pixels on a screen are constantly refreshing, which means our eyes need to re-adjust each time in order to see clearly. The increase in use of digital devices means that we are undergoing a lifestyle change and our eyes are simply trying to adapt to keep up!
Digital devices and visual fatigue
Previous single vision lenses were designed to look at objects through the centre of the lens. This meant we would need to actively position ourselves to see near objects clearly too, which often results in neck and shoulder pain.
A 2013 study revealed that we modify our postural behaviour when we use digital devices. Our posture is more stable and rigid and our eyes must focus more intensely and repeatedly adjust as we look from one thing to another. This can sometimes result in a feeling of visual fatigue.
A common complaint amongst some office and computer workers is the occurrence of dry eye. This can be improved in the following ways:
- Lowering the computer display; particularly if the top of the display screen is above eye level.
- Reduce glare from other sources in your visual fields
- Reduce any air drafts in the immediate area
- Make sure text size on the screen is at a good size and distance
Taking supportive measures
If visual fatigue is becoming a regular problem, it's important to take proper steps in preventing or reducing it. Modern technology has meant that there are now lenses available to support our visual efforts and stop our eyes from having to work so hard.
Wearing lenses that are optimised to reduce and prevent eye strain can lead to much more comfortable vision. After all, you should never compromise on your eyesight!